Engaging Police in Immigrant Communities:

Jan 1, 2015

According to the 2010 Census, approximately 40 million foreign-born people now live in the United States and seven million of them arrived within the past 8 years alone. 1 Fostering positive police-immigrant relations has never been more important to the success of community policing. Yet law enforcement faces many challenges in reaching new immigrant communities, including language barriers, cultural differences, distrust of police, and reluctance to report crime for fear of deportation. In an effort to overcome these challenges, U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) partnered with the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) to identify and disseminate information on promising practices that law enforcement agencies are using to build successful police-immigrant relations.

This report is a field-informed guide for agencies that are looking to begin or build upon their work with immigrant communities. More than 1,000 agencies across the country were asked about several topics, including the frequency of encounters with immigrants, policies and programs governing police services to immigrants, agency outreach efforts, personnel recruitment, and training activities. The practices of 175 agencies in 42 states were evaluated by Vera. Among these agencies were 133 municipal law enforcement agencies, 27 sheriff’s offices, nine state law enforcement agencies, and six other law enforcement agencies. Vera’s evaluation methodology included compiling each agency’s police-immigrant relations practices and assigning each agency a score according to how well it embodied the principles of promising practices. After three rounds of further evaluation, which included in-depth telephone interviews and site visits, the 10 agencies profiled here were selected.

The report is organized into three sections and an appendix. The first section describes eight key principles of promising practices of police-immigrant relations. The second section follows with a more detailed discussion of how 10 policing agencies have applied these principles in the field. The third section provides a glossary of technical terms used in the report and a list of relevant resources. The appendix includes a map of all the assessment respondents and charts summarizing national trends in police-immigrant relations.

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