By Connor Adams Sheets
The 109th Precinct is working to ensure that its officers and the diverse communities they serve understand one another and are well-equipped to work together to keep their neighborhoods safe.
The precinct hosted the first meeting of its newly formed Asian Advisory Board last week and will continue to do so once a month in order to foster relationships and exchange information about the Police Department and customs and concerns of the various Asian communities represented within the precinct.
Issues sometimes arise when officers interact with recent immigrants from Asian countries, when officers are not aware of the cultural norms of a given group or when Asian Americans are not thoroughly acquainted with the ins and outs of American law enforcement, according to Detective Kevin O’Donnell.
“Within the last 30 years, a lot of Asian people have moved into the 109th Precinct area. The new Asian immigrants always have a different culture, so maybe they need the 109th to provide this new service for them,” said Fred Fu, secretary of the 109th Precinct Community Council, who emigrated from Taiwan 30 years ago and is not a member of the Asian Advisory Board but says he believes it will be a great help for new immigrants. “The 109th Community Council is one channel, and Asian people have another voice and there are a lot of new immigrants from Asian countries now. So if you have a new channel for them, that gives them two channels, two choices to be heard, which is quite good.”
The new board consists of two representatives each from the Chinese and Korean communities, and one representative each from the Afghan, Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi communities. Representatives are businesspeople and religious leaders.
The plan for the board is to bring one member in to lead a class to train officers in the ways of an individual community each month and to provide education to community leaders about the role of the police, which the leaders can then disseminate throughout their communities, O’Donnell said.
“For instance, if you walk into a Chinese person’s home, it’s customary to take your shoes off. We’ve got to let them know it’s a safety thing, we don’t just take shoes off when we’re responding to a call,” O’Donnell said. “Every country’s a little bit different. Sometimes people don’t understand the difference between criminal and civil law and they don’t understand the police. We’re looking to educate people.”
Another purpose of the panel is to set up a forum to discuss issues facing Asian Americans, such as housing law and worker’s rights, O’Donnell said.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4538.