Every single Cleveland Police officer is undergoing a unique type of training to help connect with one of the city’s most vulnerable populations.
It's called “refugee awareness” training, a 90-minute class taught by Samantha Peddicord.
“This is not a mandatory requirement, this is something Public Safety chose to do, so it’s unique for that,” Peddicord explained. “And it’s also giving our officers a lot more tools and resources to work with this vulnerable population.”
From 2000 to 2016, roughly 7,600 refugees were resettled in Cuyahoga County, many in the city of Cleveland. Known as a welcoming city, Cleveland also saw a 69 percent increase in the refugee population from 2012 to 2016.
For Peddicord, the goal is to break down barriers and build bridges.
“I hope [the officers] understand why some refugees are hesitant to interact with law enforcement and ways we can make that transition a little bit easier,” Peddicord said.
All officers have access to interpreters, Peddicord said, so that people can share their stories in their own language and so officers can obtain more information.
During the course, she gives an overview of the refugee resettlement program, cultural differences to be mindful of, struggles the community faces and combats common misconceptions.
The class is co-taught by Moti Gurung, a refugee from Bhutan who is now a U.S. citizen. Soon, Gurung will take the test to become a Cleveland Police officer himself.
“My ultimate goal is to do something better in my life,” Gurung said.
Mayele Ngemba came to Cleveland as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2011. This summer, he became a United States citizen.
For him, learning of the CPD training was welcome news.
“I think it’s an amazing thing,” Ngemba said, adding that for refugees, there is often a fear to interact with law enforcement, stemming from past experiences.
“They can’t even call the police because first of all, there is a language barrier,” Ngemba said. “We came from a different world, a corrupt government.”
Ngemba said he hopes officers will be more proactive in the neighborhoods after undergoing training.
For CPD, the goal is to expand on what is learned within the classroom — and serve the community.