Officers from Mecklenburg and Union Counties traveled to Mexico in September 2016 for the first Latino Initiative program focused on law enforcement. The 24 officers from all ranks traveled with the goal of better understanding the Hispanic and Latino communities they serve in North Carolina. In addition to traveling in Mexico City to learn about the culture and history of Mexico, the group visited a correctional facility in San Miguel de Allende and a state surveillance and command center in Silao. The delegation also visited families in the community of San Nicolás del Carmen. Participants returned to the United States with a belief that cross-cultural understanding is key to effective community policing.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — While Law enforcement officers around the country are under scrutiny for policing tactics, 24 men and women in blue from Mecklenburg and Union counties recently traveled to Mexico to gain a better understanding of the Latino communities they police here at home.
The goal of the program was to improve the officers’ cultural understanding by providing insight into the background and traditions of thousands of Latinos and Hispanics living in the state. Major Sherrie Pearsall of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said the experience will shape her approach forever.
“It hit so close to home, and we had our debrief and I think everybody in the room cried,” Pearsall said. “When you see other people, it is hard to misunderstand people once you sit at the dinner table.”
Pearsall and her colleagues will spend the next month sharing what they learned with fellow officers. The program – sponsored by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Foundation for the Carolinas, and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, and coordinated by Go Global NC – started in 1998; but this was the first year the trip was focused on community policing.
According to the U.S. Census, North Carolina has one of the nation’s fastest-growing Latino populations, and more than half are from Mexico.
Lorena Patterson, program director for the Go Global NC Latino Initiative, said the program’s benefits extend far beyond those who go on the trip.
“If you have the leadership in place with this understanding, and then you get the officers that have direct contact with the community on the same level of understanding, there’s got to be a way that they can work better for their communities,” Patterson said.
Corporal Freddy Karban with the Mint Hill Police Department said he hopes the program expands to include more of his colleagues.
“Having that cultural experience and understand where they’re coming from and how to build those relationships,” Karban said, “I feel like if every officer had the chance to experience this, the possibilities are limitless.”
Officers from Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Union County, Matthews, Monroe, Davidson, Pineville, Huntersville and Mint Hill were on this year’s trip. Go Global NC is looking at ways to expand the program.
Be part of a unique travel experience to Cuba that brings Go Global NC and Cubans together to celebrate the island’s new open relationship with the United States.
Experience the world renowned Cigar Festival, ride in old vintage cars, tour tobacco and coffee plantations, taste authentic Cuban cuisine, explore the innovative medical system, visit with local families, see historic Havana, try the original mojito and practice your salsa moves!
Go Global NC will be taking a group of Latino Initiative alumni and friends to Cuba February 25th to March 4th. Spaces are limited and filling fast!
The October 2016 e-news is out! This issue includes the exciting launch of the North Carolina Global Engagement Snapshot, the follow-up from Global Teachers: South Africa 2016, the impact of the Latino Initiative Law Enforcement 2016 program, a VaccinatioNCelebration, and a story about the global dinner table at Bida Manda.
Director of Communications Stephanie Caplan wrote in Philanthropy Journal about a special reunion that took place in Mexico during the Latino Initiative Farm Bureau program earlier this year.
This was a special meeting. For 16 years, Isaias, known as “Easy,” had traveled to North Carolina to work on Richard Whitaker’s tobacco and produce farm in Guilford County. One of an estimated 150,000 migrant farmworkers in North Carolina during each growing season, Easy makes the arduous 6,400-mile round trip trek each year for planting and harvesting in order to provide for his family in Mexico.
On this day, it was the North Carolina employer who crossed the border.