The United Communities project builds law enforcement’s capacity to engage Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities in preventing crime. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services funded Vera to partner with three law enforcement agencies and explore the challenges and opportunities of working with AMEMSA communities to support homeland security goals. The project generated information and resources relevant to community-policing activities in other jurisdictions.

The United Communities project was launched to strengthen police-immigrant relations and help prevent crime. The project aims to raise officers’ awareness about how heightened immigration enforcement and activities designed to protect domestic security affect Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian communities. In each jurisdiction selected—Piscataway, New Jersey; Anaheim, California; and Cleveland, Ohio—Vera contracted with nonprofit organizations and trained their staff to interview members of AMEMSA communities about their interactions with law enforcement as well as barriers to communicating with police and reporting crime. Vera staff interviewed officers about the challenges and successes of carrying out community policing activities and advancing homeland security priorities.

After analyzing the information gathered from police personnel and community members, Vera researchers shared their findings with members of the law enforcement agency and AMEMSA community representatives through strategic planning workshops. The goals of each workshop was to educate participants about one another’s experiences, help build trust, and develop a road map for improving collaboration between these groups. Project staff convened experts and facilitated meaningful dialogue in an effort to lay the groundwork for creating policies, practices, and procedures for interactions between police and disengaged community members. To disseminate the lessons learned from the United Communities project, Vera published a report and conducted a companion webinar as resources for other law enforcement and justice agencies.

How can police-immigrant partnerships improve homeland security?

The events of September 11, 2001, complicated the nature of law enforcement interactions with  Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian immigrant communities. Many people in these communities were victims of hate crimes and racial profiling; some were identified as terrorism suspects. Even when police understand that communication and collaboration with immigrant communities can strengthen counterterrorism efforts, many agencies do not know how to begin to engage with people who are wary of the authorities. This project seeks to bridge gaps between law enforcement and disengaged  Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian communities and create tools that will help build lasting partnerships to enhance public safety.

United Communities builds upon the findings of Vera’s two-year study of relations between Arab Americans and law enforcement in the United States following September 11, 2001.

For more information about the United Communities project, contact Susan Shah.

Uniting Communities Post-9-11: Tactics for Cultivating Community Partnerships with Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian Communities
To help local law enforcement agencies negotiate the cultural, religious, ethnic, racial, and language barriers that exist between them and Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities, Vera has produced Uniting Communities Post-9/11. Funded by the Department of Justice’s...
Nicholas Turner's Testimony to President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing
Written testimony of Nicholas Turner, president and director of the Vera Institute of Justice, on the topic of building trust and legitimacy between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve, submitted on January 9, 2015 to the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Turner...
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The events of September 11th, 2001 were a game changer for law enforcement, as homeland security became a shared mission for local and federal agencies. Since then, an extensive array of laws and policies have been enacted at the national and state...