Oshkosh Police bridge gap between officers and refugees

OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) -- The Oshkosh Police Department is taking steps to strengthen its relationship with refugees in the Fox Valley.

Action 2 News first told you about this program last August, when the department worked to strengthen their relationship with Congolese refugees. This weekend, officers are working to expand on that foundation, this time working with Arabic-speaking refugees.

“Life is not easy when you start with a new culture, new country,” says Sabah Rawanduzy, World Relief-Fox Valley. “But day after day, you will be more familiar with that. But it takes some time.”

It’s sentiments like this are inspiring Oshkosh Police to bridge a gap between refugees and officers in the Fox Valley.

“We are reaching out to the refugees in our community, to get to know them and for them to get to know us and become familiar with law enforcement, and feel comfortable around us,” says Officer Kate Mann, Oshkosh Police Department.

In this weekend’s training, police are teaching refugees life skills – like what to do in an emergency if you don’t speak English, or when to call 911.

“This event make people more safer, because it's different experience. Maybe someone have a different experience or hard experience with the police department,” Rawanduzy says. “But here it's different. So we try to make them more comfortable. Police here to help, not to scare.”

In 2016 alone, the Fox Cities saw nearly 200 refugees move to the area.

That’s why police say programs like this are so important.

“For us to be able to meet with the refugees, to hear their stories, see what maybe their mindset is and what their experience is with law enforcement, just makes it easier for us to communicate with them,” Officer Mann says.

Officers say they’re hoping to continue the program, as refugees find home in the Fox Valley.