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RPD's New Americans Academy Looks to Educate Immigrants on the Law

September 10, 2019 05:45 PM

(ABC 6 News) - The Rochester Police Department is launching a new program to teach immigrants about local laws and the criminal justice system.

“The whole purpose of getting here to the U.S. be it Minnesota, Rochester, wherever, is to start a new life, to have a chance at doing well not just for yourself, but for your children,” said Teresa Navarro, an interpreter for IMAA (Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association), where she predominantly works with the Latino immigrant population.

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“The intent of course is being law-abiding, but if you don’t know what the laws are, what the regulations and limitations are, you’re bound to step on someone’s toes or create an infraction or commit a crime,” Navarro said.

The not knowing is the problem RPD’s New Americans Academy hopes to solve.

“There are inherent challenges in dealing with the immigrant population just based on kind of their understanding, or kind of their lack of understanding, of what the United States of America law enforcement is all about, and how that operates,” said Rochester Police Chief Jim Franklin.

The academy is four workshops that tackle different topics, from 911 calls and policing to explaining the legal system, with talks on the Olmsted County Attorney’s Office and Victim Services.

“By the time you get to court because you’ve committed some kind of crime or infraction of the law it’s too late. If they had known what the rules, what the regulations were, they wouldn’t have had a problem,” Navarro said.

While the Academy’s primary goal is education, Franklin hopes it’ll foster trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement.
“One of the barriers we’re trying to tear down is alleviating any fear that the people may have in speaking with cops, approaching the cops, reporting crimes and communicating with us,” Franklin said.

“It’s actually something that is needed and will serve the community at large,” Navarro said. 

The sessions will take place on October 1, 8, 15 and 22 at the Law Enforcement Center at 101 4th Street SE.

Those interested in learning more or getting registered should contact Sgt. John Mitchell at (507)328-6901 or via email at  jbmitchell@rochesermn.gov.
 

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Alice Keefe

Copyright 2019 - KAAL-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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