Spotlight: Kansas City police learn to coexist with immigrant communities through culture immersion

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LatinaLista — When writing about immigrant communities, law enforcement and immigration enforcement, it’s too easy to focus on everything that is not working.
Yet, there are programs in place that are working. Unfortunately, they don’t get the notice they deserve.
In a new feature that will run periodically on Latina Lista, we will focus on those programs that are operating and proving to have a positive impact on the Latino communities.
Our first Spotlight feature focuses on what the Kansas City police department is trying to do to coexist with the local Latino community: they immerse themselves into the culture and language by taking an intensive 10-week training program that includes making them proficient enough to be considered bilingual and places them in the neighborhoods they police to get to know the people, the culture, the local leaders and most importantly, not just to protect them but talk with them.

“I think it’s one of the most important things I’ve done since being with the department,” said Megan Laffoon, an officer for nearly three years and one of the first to finish the department’s Spanish language and culture program. “I don’t think you can fully serve a community if you can’t speak their language.”
The program is in just its second year, and hard evidence of it’s effect remains largely anecdotal. But advocates cite numerous examples in which the emerging trust between Hispanics and police has helped with investigations.