Community Policing and the Syrian Refugee Community in Wellington District

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

Participants were selected from two distinct groups, refugee support workers in Wellington district who had experience with resettling the Syrian refugee community, and New Zealand Police officers from Wellington district who worked in Community Policing fields. By interviewing two distinct groups it was hoped to obtain a more complete understanding of the challenges and opportunities, with commonalities between each group identified, and highlighting aspects of significance to either the Syrian refugee community, or local Community Police.

Selective participation was undertaken in order to get the most experienced individu­als. An approach was made to the head of the Wellington refugee resettlement service, and consultation took place around the project and the use of refugee support workers for participation, resulting in the selection of two participants. A further individual who was a former support worker, and of Syrian origins, was also approached to partic­ipate. These individuals had a mixture of ethnicity, with Syrian, Iraqi and New Zealand European backgrounds. In two of the three cases they had social work background, and a migrant experience of their own. Two of the three participants also had sup­ported the Syrian refugee community in Wellington district since the first resettlement, some six years earlier, and provide ongoing support to many.

The three Police participants were selected by identifying officers with relevant experiences. All Police participants had significant policing experience, and two had been in their current roles for several years. Participants came from School Community, Ethnic Liaison and Community Constable Roles. Geographic work locations also differed across Wellington district.

Completed transcriptions were analysed for themes relating to identified challeng­es and opportunities from both groups. Sections of the transcription relating to the themes identified were highlighted as codes using the qualitative analytical software program, Nvivo. The program collates information according to codes identified, providing summaries of codes and the percentage of coverage of the particular theme across the transcribed material. This identifies the strongest themes, and provides eas­ily retrievable theme data.

This study chose to seek the perspective of support workers who assist the Syrian refugee community in Wellington, rather than Syrian refugees themselves. This choice was based on the exploratory nature of the study, which utilised a small sample size. In considering the right support for Syria refugees it was assessed that interviewing support workers who had multiple experiences to inform their thinking would collect the most usable data, minimise the impact that individual experiences would have had on the findings, and that questioning would not instigate fear of authority or a desire to please.