Hawaii police bridge cultural gaps

Hawaii police officers with staff and trainers from the Hawai’i Island Community Health Center at the recent comprehensive training program on Micronesian culture.

In an effort to strengthen community relations and enhance cultural understanding, more than 40 Hawaii County police officers participated last month in the first-ever comprehensive training program on Micronesian culture.

This inaugural initiative was conducted by the Hawai’i Island Community Health Center’s Health Equity team with the goal of bridging cultural gaps and improving interactions with the Micronesian community on Hawaii Island.

A second training was then held for Honolulu Police Department officers on Oahu.

The Hawai’i Island Community Health Center, known for serving diverse populations, collaborated with HPD Captain Roy Valera, local Micronesian leaders and cultural experts to design the training program. This collaborative approach ensured that the training was both accurate and respectful of the Micronesian community’s values and experiences.

“We want to equip our officers with an understanding of the culture and to better address the Micronesian community when responding to calls of service,” said Captain Valera. “This training is an important first step towards understanding a different culture and their value system.”

Two days of training, one in East Hawaii and one in West Hawaii, provided police officers with in-depth knowledge about Micronesian history, traditions, and societal norms.

Topics covered included the unique cultural practices of various Micronesian subgroups, the challenges faced by Micronesian immigrants, and effective communication strategies to foster trust and cooperation. The half-day training sessions focused on building resource connections, debunking myths and unpacking misperceptions, solutions and possible future collaborations.

“We believe that education is the key to breaking down cultural barriers,” said Lee-Ann Noelani Heely, director of Health Equity at the Hawai’i Island Community Health Center. “By providing this training, we hope to promote a mutual understanding and create a safer, more cohesive community for everyone.”

The Hawaii County Police Department’s participation in this training reflects its ongoing commitment to community-oriented policing and cultural competence, she said.


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