Moving to Minnesota can be a shock for many. Lutefisk. Winter. The Minnesota State Fair.
But for those moving to Minnesota from countries around the world, there are much more important things to learn, and those are some of the things the Rochester Police Department is trying to teach with its New Americans Academy.
Rochester Police Sgt. John Mitchell announced the four-week citizens academy Tuesday morning.
"I want people to take a step forward and give us an opportunity to build a relationship with them," Mitchell said. "I want them to feel as though they have a role in how this police department is run, which they do. We serve the community, so that means we need to hear from all sectors of the community and not just one certain group."
The academy begins Oct. 1 and is aimed at giving Rochester residents not born in the U.S. an opportunity to learn about local law enforcement and the criminal justice system. It is in partnership with the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office, Olmsted County Attorney's Office, the Public Defender's Office, Rochester Fire Department, Victim Services, Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association and Hawthorne Education Center.
The four-week academy isn't something that happened overnight. Mitchell and Rochester Police Sgt. Kent Perlich spent time establishing and then building relationships with not only the agencies that serve recent immigrants, but individuals in the community as well.
Through the various topics, including an overall introducing to policing, 911 calls, safe police interactions, fire safety and crime prevention, Mitchell said the department hopes to be able to build trust between law enforcement and the immigrant community.
"If people choose not to call us when something happens, that makes everyone not safe," Mitchell said.
Olmsted County Sheriff Kevin Torgerson said, in an email, that through the academy he hoped community members from across the world can get to know the sheriff's office better.
"The biggest issue is always learning the differences between the sheriff’s office and the police department other than the color of our uniforms," he wrote. "Sheriff’s offices are mandated by state statute to serve our communities much differently than police departments, and the state patrol, for that matter."
Rebeca Sedarski, a member of the Police Policy Oversight Commission, said she learned about the program the day before at the commission meeting.
"Anything that we can do to help our new immigrant communities to understand how things work and to feel safe to reach out to law enforcement," Sedarski said. "What a great opportunity that people can attend this training. They can, in turn, go back to their friends and family and share what they learned and do a snowball effect."