Community Policing and the Syrian Refugee Community in Wellington District

Author: Tohill, Yvette
Published in National Security Journal, 08 March 2021

between the Ministry of Justice, and the New Zealand Police. Education sessions, and the publication of information in Arabic are avenues through which information flow to the Syrian community could support clearer expectations.

The desire for Police to influence the processes of other government services was re­ported by half the participants. While Community Police regularly front a broad range of concerns from communities where the responsibility lies elsewhere,64 the influence of community information, combined with a refugee mind-set born out of trauma or transition country experiences may produce a determination to undertake a certain ap­proach. Participant Six described their experience and response in the following way:

If they have an issue with housing – they come to Police. It they have an issue with whatever – they come to Police, and we have got to say to them, look it’s not all us, but you have still got to do it in a supportive way and make sure they know who to contact.

Cultural and background understanding, consistent messaging, and an interagency approach may be beneficial for managing unrealistic expectations. Collaboration with partners can clarify roles and abilities of different government services, supporting positive community outcomes. Participant Six also argued for greater Community Police involvement to set expectations with Syrian refugees in the initial resettlement process. Clear communication and realistic commitment would ensure that any undertakings were sustainable, and relationships were underscored by trust and reliability. Participants Four and Five highlighted a tendency on the part of the New Zealand Police to begin projects and do really well, then shift resources into another area. Caution needed to be exercised regarding commitment as the spread of community information may significantly influence demand on Police resources and time.

Changes in police staff and resources can negatively impact on trust relationships with communities. Most community policing staff were well established, however staff turn­over was identified as an increasingly common occurrence. Participant Five maintained that ethnic communities’ wish to deal with the same person, and stability over a couple of years was necessary. Consistency in what relationships entail, smooth handovers, or a small team approach to relationship holding may provide solutions. Visibility at social and community gatherings, would demonstrate a genuine interest in the community, and the value placed on the relationship, which supports findings by Heyer regarding Ethnic Liaison Officer’s nationally.65 Significant informal interactions between Police and the community have been promoted in Community Policing literature as essential to the development of trust and working relationships.66