Many Sikh men wear a small sword under their clothing. Orthodox Jews often refuse to move illegally parked cars on Saturdays. Outsiders may photograph statues in Buddhist temples, but not in Hindu ones. These are some insights in five videos the Chicago Police Department uses to train its officers in dealing with non-Christians, the New York Times says. Community leaders say the videos have substantially improved relations between various religious groups and police officers.
The videos, each about 10 minutes, were produced over the last two years as part of the department’s desire to communicate better with religious groups after the Sept. 11 attacks. They focus on Sikhs, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and Hindus. Each of Chicago’s nearly 14,000 police officers is required to watch all five videos. “There’s a need to educate police officers about cultural differences and how to balance the need for security with respect for people’s cultural heritage,” said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum. “Up to this minute, I don’t think the law enforcement community has been as effective at getting at these issues as we should be. What this Chicago effort does is to go beyond the simple lip service you pay, and really try to understand these communities and realize that it really is possible to do your job and also respect the nuances of individual cultures.”