Growing up in a Sudan wracked by civil war, Gabriel Majak never saw a city police force at work. Hassan Abdi, an immigrant from Somalia, said many friends in developing nations view police as “not friendly to the people.” The Louisville Courier-Journal said the two were among 14 people who attended Louisville’s first International Citizens Police Academy last week. Louisville Metro Police organized the event to build trust with people from countries such as Sudan, Somalia, Cuba, Bosnia, and Vietnam.
Police Chief Robert White told the participants that the police also wanted to learn from them. “This needs to be an exchange,” White said. “We need to hear some of the issues you’re dealing with.” About 24,000 foreign-born residents live in Louisville’s Jefferson County –3.4 percent of the total population. Their numbers have more than doubled since 1990. Advocates believe the true numbers are as much as three times higher because immigrants often are reluctant to fill out Census Bureau forms. “Louisville is becoming more diverse,” said one official. “Some of them don’t understand the concept of police being friendly and providing assistance.” Academy participants will receive briefings from SWAT team members, traffic officers, and other units. They will learn about crime-scene investigation and get a chance to ride with an on-duty patrol officer.