Brooklyn Center , United States

Taking Time for Community Safety

Brooklyn Center Police Department

January 30, 2013

A 2-way community engagement strategy helps police contribute to safe, welcoming communities

“How do I safely identify a police officer at the door?” It was a simple question, but it puzzled the law enforcement officer who heard it at an English as a Second Language class.

“It’s a given to me that if there is a police officer with a badge at the door that… that’s the police, you answer the door,” said Captain Jeff Ankerfelt, Brooklyn Park Police.

“Why did you ask that question?”

A woman from the Ukraine answered, “My brother answered the door for the police and I never saw him again.”

This example from the Brooklyn Centre’s Joint Community Police Partnership (JCPP) training video illustrates the obstacles police face in gaining trust in newcomer communities. This is particularly true in the new suburban cities in the United States that are  experiencing significant growth in their foreign-born populations. For example, almost 40% of all students in this Minnesota city of 30,000 come from homes in which a language other than English is spoken. The newly-arrived include Hmong, Latino, South Asian, Somali, and Liberian immigrants.

Cultural and language differences present challenges for most new Americans, sometimes making it difficult to become familiar with local laws and customs. Understanding the role of police in the community is an important part of settling in. At the same time, local police often lack the necessary intercultural understanding and communications support needed to help bridge this gap.

“Working together to build safer communities”

As a new city of migration in the US Midwest, Brooklyn Center police found themselves at an occasionally tense impasse with some of their newest residents.  Before the situation could develop into a possible public safety issue, the police decided to forgo “business as usual” and look for partners that could help them find a solution.

In 2005, Brooklyn Center established the Joint Community Police Partnership (JCPP) to build trust between themselves and the area’s new immigrants and refugees. In cooperation with the police departments of neighbouring Brooklyn Park, Richfield, and Hopkins, and with the support of the Hennepin County government and the Northwest Hennepin Human Services Council, the JCPP initiated an intensive community assessment involving representatives of the urban region’s different cultural communities. The aim? A community policing model to enhance communication and understanding between law enforcement and cultural communities.

The motto guiding the JCPP strategy is: “Working together to build safer communities.” Brooklyn Center Police and their partners committed themselves to actively inform newcomers about local police procedures and laws; provide training to officers about cultural diversity, customs and practices; and promote opportunities for positive interaction for both groups. Investing in a two-way process -one that engages both newcomer and receiving community- is a strategy that’s being put to work by police in other jurisdictions, too,  such as Newport News, Virginia (Police Take Community Outreach to City Hall).


The JCPP’s strategies include appointing a community liaison officer to promote trust within immigrant communities; providing cultural and language training for police officers; police-led  community outreach and workshops delivered through their New Americans’ Academy in refugee resettlement classes and local community centres; and establishing a multicultural advisory committee for ongoing consultation. Finally, the JCPP actively recruits young “multicultural cadets” and offers them counselling on a future career with the police force. An offer of employment is conditional upon the cadet’s completion of training, and success in meeting educational and performance requirements.

“I feel like I am serving as a bridge and as someone that the community can look at and see themselves,” says former multicultural cadet, Officer Todd Nagbo of the Brooklyn Centre Police. “I am someone they can talk to without feeling like they are afraid.”

Since 2005, this program has been successfully replicated in four suburban cities in Hennepin County. In 2009, the JCPP received the Civil Rights Award from the International Association of Police Chiefs.

Making it Work for You:

  • Communities evolve and change and successful policing needs to do the same. New thinking can be required to effectively get to know, build trust, understand, respect and work positively with new communities.
  • Information sessions on local law and legal process help newcomers appreciate both their rights and their obligations while instilling confidence and a sense of safety.
  • Offer training and information sessions for residents in local community centres and classrooms to encourage participation.
  • Recruit from newcomer communities for positions within the police and as civilian liaisons

For this Good Idea contact:

Brooklyn Center Police Department , City of Brooklyn Center
6645 Humboldt Ave N
Brooklyn Center, MN, US,

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