Planning outreach between Muslim communities and police in the USA and the UK
Silk, Phillip Daniel
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In the United States and the United Kingdom, the relationships built between police and Muslim communities have taken on a new importance since the attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York and Washington DC, and July 7, 2005 in London. Government, community, and religious leaders have stressed the necessity for collaborative partnerships between police and Muslims, and this topic is discussed at the highest levels of government and receives critical attention in the media. However, the prevalent and pervasive counter-terrorism agenda in both countries also leads Muslims to feel scrutinized by law enforcement and security services. This has led to an environment in which efforts by Muslims and police to work together takes place on a contested and very public stage. The purpose of this study was to understand how individual and organizational interests influence partnerships between local police departments and Muslim communities as they plan outreach efforts. Thirty-one semi-structured interviews were conducted with individuals who had been involved in planning police-Muslim community outreach, and the interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed for themes. Data analysis led to six primary themes: (a) outreach is planned as a response to difficult circumstances; (b) outreach involves educational goals; (c) outreach is developed to build communication, relationships, and trust; (d) outreach is developed to promote community participation in government; (e) outreach efforts are planned through relationships; and (f) outreach planning involves negotiating around difficult issues. The development of these primary themes led to four conclusions: a) outreach between police and Muslim communities takes place in a security-conscious era, and is politicized and publicly debated; b) outreach planning is dependent upon relationships built between individuals; c) outreach is an adult education endeavor, and always involves learning; and d) the outreach planning process is iterative and police and community members must pay attention to the need for relationships, learning, negotiation and flexibility when working in this environment.