Community Policing and the Syrian Refugee Community in Wellington District

Community informa­tion channels could impact on the wider perception of Police. Participant Five spoke of how Ethnic Liaison Officers regularly facilitate explanations of Police processes to these families.

In contrast, Participant Three’s impression was that Police regularly targeted poorer ar­eas, and young male drivers of different ethnicity. While they believed young men were likely the biggest offenders for driving offences, targeting them pulled them into a cycle leading to the criminal justice system. This is similar to opinions expressed by ethnic minority participants of other New Zealand studies.49 Jaegar and Vitalis, found in 2005 that New Zealand Police staff from ethnic communities maintained that a paradigm shift was being experienced within the organisation with changes in policy and recruit­ment to target institutional racism.50 This suggests that while individual experiences cannot be discounted, the organisation supports the eradication of bias and prejudice in Police-ethnic community interactions.

Home country and outside influences should not be discounted in the creation of per­ceptions.

Not only do the police stereotype minorities, minorities stereotype the police. People tend to communicate stereotypical information and to embrace a stereotype of other groups.51

Stereotypes work both ways, therefore opinions should be interpreted with caution, particularly around contentious topics. Non-crime interactions could allow for de­mystification of Police operations. Participant Four stated that relationships between youth and individual officers permitted Syrian youth to seek advice. This creates trust and provides an avenue through which questions can be raised regarding negative expe­riences. This finding supports literature by Ho et al who note that migrants and refugees need to know not only “how” police systems work in New Zealand, but also “why.”52

The closeness of Syrian family units suggests a potential for changes in the way informa­tion is shared and understood, when incidents take place, which is more sympathetic to Syrian cultural and family constructs. Kate et al recommend greater inclusion of alternative resolutions within justice pathways.53 The use of Te Pae Oranga Panels,54 for example, have been found to be effective in reducing the harm which can come from re-offending,55 and may provide pathways for dealing with offending that are more supportive of cultural sensitivities and solutions. Ethnic minority representation and perspectives in panels should be considered.

Positive interactions within the school system provide opportunities to build trust and connections with youth and their families from the outset. A school established in Porirua to deliver language and culture to Arabic children was suggested as an avenue for interactions.