A Red Deer Mountie will work on bridging gaps between police and the local African and gay and lesbian communities and other diverse groups under a pilot program for Alberta’s RCMP.
On Dec. 4, Const. Shelley Bates became the city detachment’s diversity co-ordinator, a role that will see her working closely with immigrants and others over the next two years.
She wants to develop an understanding of Red Deer’s diverse groups in order to improve police response and foster a climate of safety, security, mutual respect and community trust.
Bates, 36, said some people come from another country where laws are very different.
Some believe the police are corrupt and so they think the RCMP are as well.
“There needs to be some information passed on as to how the police are different from back home,” said Bates.
And the more the police know about the various cultures, the better position they will be in to handle a domestic dispute or other complaint.
“If we have a rapport built with people of that community, it will be easier to do our job.”
Bates said it’s important to foster these relations as Red Deer’s immigrant population continues to grow. She will initially concentrate her efforts on the African community.
She recently learned from one African that his culture requires that wives and husbands live in separate homes.
“If you have a family that is now living in an apartment and they aren’t used to that, there can be issues,” said Bates. “As the police, we need to realize that this could be part of the problem as to why maybe this couple is arguing.”
She has established contact with Jan Underwood, community educator with Central Alberta Refugee Effort, in order to find out what the challenges are within the African community.
Bates has yet to establish contact with the lesbian/bisexual/gay/transgendered group. She hopes to gain their trust so she can see how RCMP can better help them as well.
By concentrating on these two groups initially, Bates won’t stretch herself too thin.
“It’s important that this is a success. I don’t want to jump in with all these different groups and nothing happens.”
The six strands of diversity she has identified are: race and ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion and belief.
If the diversity co-ordinator position is successful, then other detachments across the province may want to set up a similar program, Bates added.
The position was a joint idea of the City of Red Deer and Red Deer RCMP because they felt it was important to deal with all citizens in a uniform manner, Bates said.
The 12-year member of the RCMP had stints in Mannville and Vermilion before arriving at the city detachment. She later became a school resource officer for the Red Deer rural RCMP detachment and then took some time off to care for her two young sons.
She graduated from the University of Calgary with a sociology degree with a concentration in criminology.
“It’s going to be a huge challenge,” said Bates, regarding her new role. “But the benefits are going to be so great.”
Bates works 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and can be reached at 403-341-2077.