NIIC – P.A.R. Officers in Aurora, Colorado

Written by Spencer May ’13

Dave could be a Marine – his broad shoulders and shaved head could pass him for a Sergeant Major, but at the National Immigrant Integration Conference in Seattle, Dave only wore casual clothes and a navy-blue polo shirt with the acronym “P.A.R.”  What did P.A.R. stand for, and why was this guy at an immigrant integration conference?

In Aurora, Colorado, P.A.R. stands for “Police Area Representative,” the name for Aurora’s community police officers.  P.A.R.’s were introduced to Aurora in 1983, and their advantages became immensely apparent when Aurora’s population transformed to become 85% minority and immigrant.  In Aurora, P.A.R.’s are strategically deployed to educate Aurora’s diverse neighborhoods about the police’s role, but also to collaborate with Aurora neighborhoods to solve larger community problems. The result: 30 officers like Dave who are culturally sensitive, fluent in several different languages, and able to build bridges between minority/immigrant residents and a traditionally white male police force.

As Dave spoke about his P.A.R. program and its success and challenges, it struck me that Dave was exactly my interviewees’ idea of effective policing.  For the Latino immigrants I have interviewed, the best officers were those who initiated contact, continued to communicate and responded to their ideas to improve their community.  For one woman, the officer who simply introduced himself and told her to call his cell phone at any time made the biggest and most positive impression.

To me and my research, Dave and his fellow Aurora P.A.R.’s are exciting because they are part of an alternative policing model that engages communities and builds trust across race and nationality.  For Latino immigrant communities and police forces in Washington who feel disconnected from each other, Dave and his P.A.R.’s might be a place to start.

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