CUNY Develops Expanded Cultural Sensitivity Program for NYPD “Streetwise: Language, Culture and Police Work in New York City”

May 6, 1999 | The University

Some 2,100 City police officers are being given enhanced “cultural tools” that could prove effective in peacefully protectingNew York City neighborhoods under a program developed by the City University of New York for the New York Police Department.

Called “Streetwise: Language, Culture and Police Work in New York City,” the program is designed to give new officers basic language skills and strategies for rejecting stereotypes. The training will also make officers more effective while working in ethnic communities including Russian, Hispanic, Haitian, Chinese and African/Caribbean-American.

“Streetwise builds solid bridges between the police and the communities that they serve,” said John Mogelescu, University Dean for Adult and Continuing Education. “Building relationships in the community makes policing more effective.”

More than half of the officers will be trained in the nuances of working in the African/Caribbean-American communities of the city. The remainder of the officers will receive specific ethnic training that will be determined by their precinct assignments.

Beginning last summer, the “Streetwise” training was provided by CUNY faculty and staff to prepare police trainers. CUNY also developed the training manual used in the course, videotapes depicting police and community residents interacting in city neighborhoods, and a video with focused commentary from seasoned officers on the virtues of understanding a community’s language and culture.

To help with language issues, the officers are given audiotapes and language tips on how to manage situations involving people who are not English-speaking.

“Improved cross-cultural communication engenders mutual trust, forming the basis of positive interactions and the development of community-oriented policing,” said Mogelescu. His CUNY team included Greg Donaldson, New York Technical College; Douglas Muzzio, Baruch College; Leslee Oppenheim, CUNY’s Office of Academic Affairs; Sandra Poster, Borough of Manhattan Community College; and Herb Johnson and Lance Smith of John Jay College of Criminal Justice.