‘Multicultural’ guide offers cops communication tips

cop
Credit: Metro File Photo.

The NYPD disseminates a manual throughout the department called “Policing a Multicultural Society,” apparently with the aim of increasing cultural sensitivity within the city’s police force, the New York Times reported.

City lawyers in the recent stop-and-frisk lawsuit reportedly pointed to the manual as evidence that the department is conscientious with regard to diversity.

“Beckoning people to come to you by holding your palms up, for example, may be seen as obscene among Latin Americans,” is one tidbit of advice the manual offers. “Probably it is best for police officers to avoid using hand gestures until they have acquainted themselves with what they mean to the community members whom they serve.”

The manual notes that Africans shake hands “through a light touch of the palms,” and that using children as interpreters is tricky, even though youths often speak English better than their immigrant parents: it is best to direct questions “to the male of the household, even if children are serving as interpreters,” the manual advises.

Some of the advice seems intended to assure officers that behaviors that may alarm them could have cultural explanations, such as the notice to “be aware that newly arrived Arab-Americans may get out of their car when stopped by a police officer as a gesture of courtesy.”

In other instances, cops are cautioned to not take suspicious or antagonistic behavior personally, especially with people who come from countries where law enforcement was probably frightening and corrupt: ”In such places, people learn early that there is little to gain and much to lose by trusting the police or by telling them the truth. No matter how friendly, trustworthy, and helpful we may try to be, habits and traditions learned during a lifetime of oppression do not die easily.”

It continues with advice to make an effort to assuage the fears of people from such places.

“Your interactions with immigrants from countries like Haiti, Cambodia, El Salvador, and Guatemala will go more smoothly if you take the time to assure them that you will not hurt them,” the manual advises.

NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information reportedly told the New York Times that the manual’s advice, and the cultural observations therein, are “consistent with the literature and texts utilized by universities.”

 

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat


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