Phoenix police, refugees building bridges

PHOENIX - For the first time Phoenix police organized a meeting with groups that work closely with the Valley's refugee communities.

Each precinct sent at least one officer to learn more about who refugees are and how to better interact with them.

Each year Arizona welcomes about 2,500 refugees from more than 50 countries. Refugees have fled their homeland due to political, religious, racial or ethnic persecution.

After background and health checks, they are invited by the federal government to begin new lives in the United States.

"Listening to their stories is very difficult," said Det. Luis Samudio. "I think a lot of people don't realize what they've gone through."

William Pay Tuoy-Giel arrived in Phoenix after fleeing Sudan's civil war more than a decade ago. He now works with other refugees and is focused on improving relationships with police.

"The history of policing in other countries is different from here," Tuoy-Giel said. "Some of the refugees are not aware of that because either police are the enemies where you come from, either beating up citizens for no reason or making arrests without anything so there are no rights."

Representatives from four groups who help resettle refugees in the Valley shared information and contacts with community action officers.

The police officers also left with cards to keep in their cars with suggested questions and contacts when dealing with refugees who may not speak English well.

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