Community Policing and the Syrian Refugee Community in Wellington District

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

Garth den Heyer (2019) studied the role of New Zealand Police Cultural Liaison Of­ficers in regards to crime prevention and Community Policing. Fifty officers were contacted, covering Maori, Pacific and Ethnic liaison roles. Those who responded (13 Maori and one Pacific Liaison officer) limit the generalisation of the results to other ethnicities supported. Findings that support Community Policing include prioritising community gatherings, facilitating communication and building trust. Heyer asserts Police-ethnic community relationships still require work and recommends more Ethnic Liaison Officers. Furthermore, he notes these roles lack formal training or on-going education to support relationship building with communities,38 a situation which may potentially exist across many Community Policing roles.

This study addresses some of the gaps identified in research to date, while providing further knowledge to support greater understanding of the most significant challenges facing the New Zealand Police and its Community Police in building effective relation­ships and support for the Syrian Refugee Community in Wellington District.


This research used a semi-structured interview style with six participants who were involved in the resettlement process of Syrian Refugees in Wellington District. This allowed the focused exploration of some consistent topics, such as challenges, experiences with Police or the Syrian refugee community, future risks, opportunities, necessary considerations for successful programs, training for Police and current initiatives. Some questions were provided prior to interviews, to introduce the topics and allow for preparation. During the interview, follow up questions further explored experiences and participants’ thinking. Participants were encouraged to highlight anything they considered particularly relevant to the research.

Interviews took place at locations where the participants were most comfortable, and ranged from participants’ homes, to offices. The audio recordings were transcribed.39 The analysis contained in this research report was based on the written transcriptions. Where further information was sought post-interview, questions were emailed to the participants.

Privacy was a significant concern due to the vulnerabilities of refugees and their expe­riences. The questions were designed to elicit general trend information, such as the types of crimes or interactions with Police that had been experienced, and the activities, or opportunities that might exist to better support feelings of safety and wellbeing in this community. Identifying information was not sought, and where experiences referred to may have identified individuals, names or references were removed to maintain privacy. The naming protocols of the transcripts protected the privacy of participants, utilising a unique number rather than names.