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Friday, November 11, 2005

Institute Studies Arab-Police Relations in Yonkers, NY

On November 5, 2005, The Journal News reported, "There are six police officers of Arab descent in Yonkers, who help with Arabic translation in addition to their day-to-day patrolling duties. Police also deal daily with Arab doctors, nurses and other emergency workers in their line of work.

That kind of side-by-side work environment helps to break down stereotypes and foster respect between the police and the Arab-American community in Yonkers, community leaders say.

The relationship is now under review by the Vera Institute for Justice, a national nonprofit organization that is working to identify ways in which local, state and federal authorities can build trust and improve communication with Arab communities. The organization is studying four U.S. cities with large Arab populations, including Yonkers... Working side by side in a diverse place like Yonkers helps to quell stereotypes or fears about Arabs or other any ethnic group, but the diversity of the city could also create a camouflage for terrorists, Taggart said.

"It's a place where someone could come in and not be noticed, because it is such a melting pot," he said.

Police would be letting their guard down, though, if they focused terrorism prevention on one ethnic group, said the commissioner.

"Terrorists have any kind of face or last name," Taggart said. "We need to focus on people's activities rather than their backgrounds."

While local Arab Americans are upbeat about their relationship with local police, their attitude toward federal law enforcement is different because of perceived threats to their civil rights.

Some Arab Americans resent federal policies such as the 2002 mandatory registration of some Arab and Muslim immigrants, the deportation of immigrants on minor violations, and increased surveillance."

This article cross-posted at the Pluralism Project's Religious Diversity News.

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