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|Brazilian Citizen Police Academy planned||Tue Jul 17, 2007|
|Liz Mineo 508-626-3825||Metrowest Daily News|
Town officials and police are working to launch a Brazilian Citizen Police Academy to help local Brazilians become familiar with police and help police get closer to the Brazilian community.
The academy is in the planning stages, said Police Chief Steven Carl, who thought of the idea. Work is under way to hold the first one in October.
"Our ultimate goal is to educate Brazilians about who the police are," said Carl. "We want to tell them what the police can and cannot do, and that the police are here to help."
The idea came about after the town's first dialogue between government leaders and the Brazilian community on June 18. The meeting was part of efforts to bridge the gap between the Brazilian community and police, and Brazilians were encouraged to attend to talk about their needs and concerns with town officials.
The citizen police academy will help police answer some of the questions raised at the meeting from how to get driver's licenses, to how to obtain valid documents to work legally, to what the police do when it comes to (iilegal) immigration law.
The academy will be a small version of the citizen police academies that many police departments offer across MetroWest to help residents learn about police work.
"It will be an educational program," said Carl. "A lot of the concerns brought up were based on misinformation or misperception. Many of the questions were outside of the scope of the police, but we're obligated to clarify the issues."
Dialogue organizers also plan to hold small forums on housing regulations, small businesses, immigration regulations, and health issues. These are some of the other concerns within the Brazilian community, said Framingham human services coordinator Alexis Silver.
The first forum helped town officials learn about the needs of the Brazilian community, she said, but there is still work to be done.
"We'd like to see the Brazilian community ... more involved."
A few days after the June 18 dialogue, Josephine Carabello, a conciliator with the Department of Justice's community relations service, left town. Carabello came here early this year in response to a request by Carl, who was concerned about his department's difficulties in connecting with the Brazilian community.
Community leaders and town officials who worked with Carabello in organizing the town's first Brazilian American Community Wide Dialogue said the event was the beginning of a long road.
But some progress has been made, said Brazilian community leader Ilton Lisboa, and the community in general will reap the fruits.
"It'll be positive," he said. "It will benefit both the Brazilian community and the general community."
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