By Andrea Huncar, CBC News
Junior officers with the Edmonton Police Service say they are not adequately trained to interact with members of the Somali-Canadian community, according to a report being presented Thursday to the police commission.
“The majority of constables, including beat officers, stressed that having more knowledge about the community would significantly help them in their day-to-day interactions,” reads the 34-page report, co-authored by Dr. Sandra Bucerius, a criminologist at the University of Alberta.
The findings are the result of 57 in-depth interviews with officers of various rank last year in a project approved by Chief Rod Knecht.
Most constables were not aware that Somali-Canadians are Muslim and did not have detailed knowledge of their culture, religion or immigration experiences, the report says.
One officer described how colleagues almost aggravated an arrest situation in which a suspect was agitated because a copy of the Qur’an was lying on the ground.
“The guy just wanted to pick it up,” said the officer in the report. “But my colleagues did not pick up on this, because they don’t know the rules. So, he got to pick up the (Qur’an) and was cooperating after.
“Rules like that, we need to know them. No one teaches that stuff.”
The report said while some officers described receiving cultural competency training, it was not usually specific to Somali-Canadians. They stressed it would be helpful to receive knowledge before taking on a new beat requiring community interaction.
“It would make our lives a lot easier,” said an officer. “We basically need to learn everything on the job, a lot of trial and error.”