Hispanic/Latino Strategic Plan
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department has created a Strategic Plan to help its officers interact more effectively with the growing Latino community in Charlotte. The Police Department operates under the community problem-oriented policing philosophy with an emphasis on building community partnerships to establish effective communication and to identify, analyze, and solve crime and quality of life problems.
The department has faced some genuine challenges in dealing with the Latino community. Instead of a piecemeal approach, the department wanted to develop a comprehensive plan for dealing with the needs of the Latino community. The Strategic Plan which has been developed respects the Latino culture while, at the same time, helping to assimilate members of the Latino community into the larger community of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
The plan provides a framework for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department employees to address the needs of the Latino community in five key areas. These areas are:
Interpreters/Translators: The plan calls for the establishment of a benchmark for all individuals acting as interpreters and translators in law enforcement situations. The plan will also assist in the development of a pool of qualified interpreters and translators who will operate under an established protocol.
Criminal Activity: The plan calls for a strong working partnership with the Immigration and Naturalization Service to deal with those members of the Latino community who are engaged in criminal activity.
Recruitment: The plan calls for enhanced recruiting within the Latino community to hire both police officers and support personnel. The department feels that it is critical that the police force be reflective of the population that its serves so recruiting Hispanic/Latino police officers will be a priority.
Internal/External Communication and Cultural Education: The plan discusses ways to develop a more effective information flow between the Police Department and the Latino community so that Latino residents will know what services are available to them, develop greater trust of the police, and be more willing to report crime. Focal points of the plan are development of a public information/crime prevention campaign, enhancing the Spanish skills of police personnel, educating police employees on the Latino culture, developing a community resource bank for police officers to use in assisting the Latino community, and developing better mechanisms for tracking crime in the Latino community.
City/County Collaboration: The plan calls for the development of stronger partnerships between police, the Latino community and other city and county government service providers. The Police Department will take the role of advocate in assisting other agencies in developing resources to address the needs of the Latino community.
2. When was the program created and why?
The plan was finalized in the fall of 1998. It was created in response to the growing Latino population in our community, many of whom are attracted by employment opportunities in the construction industry. For police, dealing with the Latino population creates challenges in dealing with the language barrier, the fear and distrust of police which is inherent in many Latino cultures, the under-utilization of police and other governmental services, the under-reporting of crime, and the involvement of some segments of this population in criminal activity. The Hispanic/Latino Strategic Plan outlines a comprehensive plan to educate, engage, and empower Charlotte’s Latino residents.
3. How do you measure the program’s effectiveness?
4. How is the program financed?
Currently, the program is funded through the Police Department’s operating budget. At a later date, grant funds may be sought for specific initiatives such as Spanish language training for police officers or crime prevention initiatives.
5. How is the community involved in the program, if at all? How has the community responded to the program?
Representatives from the Hispanic/Latino community and the key agencies that serve that population were involved in all phases of the development of this plan. The Mayor’s International Cabinet was kept apprised of the development of the plan.
6. What are the major lessons learned that would be helpful for others trying to implement a similar program?
The organization wishing to develop such a plan should insure that the project has highly visible support from the top level of the organization. The mayor, police chief, or whoever heads the entity developing the plan must stress that development of the plan is his or her priority and must ask, in his or her name, for the support of the people that he or she wishes to be involved in the working group. While personnel at lower levels of the organization may head the work group, the head of the organization must be an active group sponsor.
The working group must be aware of and work around turf battles that arise among non-profit groups that serve the Latino community. Many of these agencies are competing among themselves for funding and are understandably anxious to present their accomplishments in the most favorable light possible. The head of a working group putting together such a plan must facilitate the meetings in such a way that these turf battles are minimized. Ultimately, these organizations are an invaluable resource and their input is crucial to the development of a comprehensive plan.
7. What specific advice do you have for mayors interested in replicating a program such as yours?
Be aware of any legal ramifications of the components of the plan.
Do not spend an undue amount of time looking at what has been done in other jurisdictions. There are very few comprehensive plans for dealing with the public safety needs of the Latino community so it appears that this approach is still somewhat uncharted territory. The plan needs to be based on the resources that are available in a given community and address the needs that are not addressed at the current resource level.For more information, please contact:
Capt. Nina Wright
Darrellyn Kiser, Assistant to the Chief
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352