MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. — Approximately 4,000 immigrants have come to Mount Kisco in the past 20 years, many of them from Guatemala, according to Mount Kisco immigrant advocacy nonprofit Neighbors Link.
Neighbors Link and Northern Westchester Hospital, in cooperation with the Mount Kisco Police Department, have developed a cultural sensitivity training program for village police, in which officers are taught about cultural stereotypes and generalizations and immigrant demographics.
“The true benefit to these sessions is just the opportunity to have an open dialogue about these things and just talk about them,” said Carola Bracco, executive director of Neighbors Link and a member of Northern Westchester Hospital Board of Trustees.
The program, titled “Building Cultural Competence: A Community-Wide Initiative,” was designed to increase cultural awareness in order to continue to build positive relations with the village’s immigrant population.
“Many in the immigrant community are coming from countries where the police department might be corrupt,” Bracco said, so these sessions help police understand some immigrants' perspectives.
Bracco said that Neighbors Link and the Mount Kisco police, in a partnership known as PACT – Police and Community Together – have been presenting seminars to immigrants for the past few years about the way the police work in this country, from culture and customs to community policing, and what to do if they witness or are a victim of a crime.
Relations have improved greatly over the years, she said, and this police training program was the natural next step.
The Building Cultural Competence program was modified from Northern Westchester Hospital’s Cultural Competency course, as police have to make quick decisions and quick judgment calls while remaining safe, just like hospital emergency room staff.
The program went through a review process involving officers and members of the immigrant community with help from Maria Simonetti, the hospital’s head of Community Health Education & Outreach.
Kerry Flynn-Barrett, vice president of human resources at the hospital and a course instructor, said NWH has been conducting cultural sensitivity training for its own staff since 2006. She and Mount Kisco Police Lieutenant Patrick O’Reilly help direct the program with Bracco.