Analysis of Officer & Civilian Personnel Contact With Citizens Co-Workers Victims & Suspects

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Analysis of Officer & Civilian Personnel Contact
With Citizens Co-Workers Victims & Suspects
Elizabeth Hall

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses”, begins the famous poem written by Emma Lazarus which adorns the Statue of Liberty our American symbol of freedom (Statue of Liberty National Monument, n.d.).  While this poem probably fit the times of creation, in a modern world this often presents problems due to the nature of our society. 
In the fast paced modern world people are in a hurry to get everything done due to demands on the individual worker that seem to multiply with the practice of downsizing. Law Enforcement agencies are no exception to the rule, and are, affected just as much if not more than other industries.  In addition to the reduction of staff, where Law Enforcement agencies are concerned training budgets are also affected.  (Shusta, 2008)
Opposite of the trends for police and civilian personnel, our immigrant population has grown from 9.7 percent (2.2 million) to 12.5 percent (38.5 million) according to Batalova and Terrazas (2011).  While it would seem to be a great jump forward in the cause, reality brings shows us a clash of cultures, as immigrants struggle to hold on to their beliefs while trying to get past the culture shock of entering a new country to reside. We will look at two case scenarios with different patterns and methods.  This clash of cultures and numbers often presents problems for law enforcement and civilian personnel such as stereotypes, communication barriers, and cultural differences as they are charged with keeping order among many types of people along with the importance of the cross cultural training that many officers and civilians working in the fields concerning the criminal justice system.  (Shusta, 2008)

Scenario 1
Seng Chang and Kaying Lor were glad to learn Monday afternoon that their family’s journey through the courts was over.  Police took away the couple’s four children on April 30 after employees at Sherman Elementary School noticed marks on the youngsters’ bodies.  The marks had been produced by a traditional Asian healing technique commonly called coining.  The children were returned to their parents on May 3, but officially remained in state custody.  Prosecutors Monday dropped the case against Chang and Lor after medical experts reviewed the case and determined that there was no evidence of child abuse… The family is Hmong, an ethnic group from the hills of Laos.  Lor said he and his wife would continue using the coining remedy when their children are sick. The technique involves rubbing ointment into the skin with a coin or spoon. He said he hopes those who investigate abuse allegations have learned a lesson and will listen more carefully to what parents are saying before removing children from their homes. Six other children were taken from a Vietnamese couple in a separate but similar case. Prosecutors dismissed that case last week. (Morton, 2002, p. B1)
Scenario 2
A 19-year-old African American male living in an upper-middle class suburban neighborhood in Fremont, California, reported that he was stopped and questioned four times in two weeks by different officers. On one occasion, the conversation went this way:
Officer: What are you doing here?
Teen: I am jogging, sir.
Officer: Why are you in this neighborhood?
Teen: I live here sir.
Officer: Where?
Teen: Over there, in that big house on the hill.
Officer: Can you prove that? Show me you’re I.D.
On another occasion, when he was jogging, a different officer stopped him and asked (referring to the very expensive jogging shoes he was wearing), “Where did you get those shoes?” When the boy answered that he had bought them, the next question was, “Where do you live?” When the teen answered, “in that big house on the hill,” the officer apologized and went on his way.
Stereotypes of Asian/Pacific and African Americans
According to Grobman (1990), a stereotype is “a generalization about a person or group of persons.  Stereotypes are formed when people are unable or unwilling to gather the necessary information on a person or group in order to form opinions based on fact and not speculation.  Often if a person were to take the time to gain the information needed to truly be informed their perceptions would probably change in one way or another.  In the modern world, most people do not take the time to get properly informed, instead relying on group or family values and beliefs to shape their perception of the world around them.  While every group has its own stereotype in some way, we will look at two scenarios one of an Asian Hmong family ordeal and an African American traffic stop. (Shusta, 2008)
In the incident discussed for Scenario 1, Seng Chang and Kaying Lor had four children removed from their homes by police after the father; Seng Chang had administered a traditional Asian remedy called coining. In this case, the incident could have been avoided entirely had anyone in multiple agencies had the foresight that proper cross-cultural training would have brought to the table because even if they did not already know about the technique someone would have at least looked it up. Lack of information is no excuse in this age of the Internet where information on any subject is readily available at the push of a button. The agencies automatically assumed the worst and removed the child without proper due diligence following whatever Western opinion had decreed due to the stereotyping of Asian/Pacific people and our stereotype of other cultural medical practices.
In the case of Scenario 2, several different officers stopped the boy and because of the color of the teen’s skin, automatically assumed that he did not belong in the neighborhood.  One officer even went as far as to question the teen because he had nice shoes on.  The common stereotype the officers assumed in this case is that black people are poor and commit crimes to attain material possessions. The stereotype suggests that an African American family cannot achieve enough wealth or knowledge to obtain housing in that particular neighborhood, and subsequently the teen was repeatedly asked to validate his reason for being in the neighborhood that he resided in.
Communication Styles of Asian/Pacific Immigrants and African Americans
Each culture has its own standards and customs of communication styles within itself.  Often these communication styles have evolved over generations of people.  According to Adams, R. J., Elliot, C. & Sockalingam, S. (n.d.), Asian/Pacific cultural standards of communication, they have very little volume of speech, along with very low directness with questions, answering questions, or even getting the point when accused.  This would firmly suggest that cross-cultural differences were the root cause of the problem with the Hmong family. 
African American cultural standards of communication again according to Adams et al (n.d.), are culturally like any other American citizen with a few exceptions.  These are that they are less hierarchal in-group structure than Asians/Pacific’s, are less interested in individualism than group collective identity than Anglo Saxon citizens and like the Asian/Pacific, Native American, and Hispanic groups are very aware of “white privilege”. 
Importance of Cross Cultural Knowledge
Because our communities are becoming more diverse every year, as noted by it is very important for police and citizen personnel of agencies charged with enforcing our laws, such as child protective services receive the proper training on cultural differences to avoid situations like the scenarios we have discussed.  Because it is very true that in situations of authority, a few bad apples can spoil the whole bunch, and because the media does not regularly report on things that go well in situations concerning immigration and cultural issues sensitivity training is essential.  The policeman who does his job with sensitivity and correct approaches to cultural issues will probably never make front page news, but police misconduct and agency misconduct always finds its way to the headlines.  These negative images affect law enforcement and other agencies everywhere because it makes people afraid to have to have any contact with them at all whether the contact would be positive or negative.  (Shusta, 2008)
The clash of cultures between enforcement personnel and multicultural citizens often presents problems for law enforcement and civilian personnel such as stereotypes, communication barriers, and cultural differences as they are charged with keeping order among many types of people.  The United States is becoming more culturally diversified each year as foreign people migrate to America.  If law enforcement and other agency personnel are not taught cultural sensitivity then issues, can and do arise where there would have never been a problem simply because we have different values and communication systems that align with our particular culture.  Stereotypes only serve to widen the gap between us.  In an ideal multicultural society new cultures would not divide us further but meld cultures together with each new addition melding with who is there already, while adding a new element to the mix, much like adding spices to a dish cooking.

Adams, R. J., Elliot, C., & Sockalingam, S. (n.d.).  Normative Communication Styles & Values
           For Cross-Cultural Collaboration.  Retrieved From: http://www.fachc.org/pdf/mig_Normative%20Communication%20Styles.pdf

Batalova, J. & Terrazas, A. (2011). Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United StatesMigration Policy Institute, (2011).  Retrieved From: http://www.migrationinformation.org/USfocus/
Coderoni, G.R. (2002).  Perspective: The relationship between multicultural training for police and effective law enforcement.  Retrieved From: http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/law-enforcement-bulletin/2002-pdfs/nov02leb.pdf
Grobson, G. M. (1990). Stereotypes and Prejudices. Retrieved From:  http://www.remember.org/guide/History.root.stereotypes.html

Shusta, R. (2008).  Multicultural law enforcement: Strategies for peacekeeping in a diverse                                        
                         society (4th ed.).  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Statue of Liberty National Monument, (n.d.) Emma Lazarus’ Famous Poem.  Retrieved from:                                        

United States.  Department of Homeland Security, (2010).  Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: 2009.  Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Immigration Statistics, 2010.       

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