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Local law enforcement officers, recruits learn about diversity through cultural competency training

Posted at 5:48 PM, May 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-24 17:48:32-04

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WKBW) — Dozens of recruits in the Law Enforcement Training Academy at SUNY Erie learned about cultural competency on Friday.

As diversity grows in the local community, this training enables them to be more aware of, and sensitive to customs among different ethnicities.

The International Institute offered cultural competency training through a partnership with the Academy.

"If you don't understand the culture and the background and the person you're dealing with, you're going to interpret everything through your own personal filter," said May Shogan, Director of International Exchanges and Education at the Institute. "And that could be completely the opposite of what the person has intended to say or do."

With a focus on refugees and immigrants, and the challenges they face, the training helps police academy recruits to understand the importance of translation, interpretation, even gestures and body language.

"The eye contact could be a sign of respect in some cultures, but it could be perceived as somebody is lying or hiding something or being rude," said Shogan.

And this type of training is something that Anna Mongo, Chief Program Officer at Jericho Road Community Health Center, said she applauds.

"I think it's important that they understand just how diverse our community is," she said. "I mean I think some of these same strategies that you use to work with immigrants and refugees apply to the general population. I mean we're all different, we're all diverse."

Mongo said one out of ten people now living in Buffalo is a refugee, immigrant or a non-native English speaker.

Shogan said she hopes this training bridges the gap between cultures and results in better communication between law enforcement and their communities.