Blog Post: Orange County Sheriff’s Office’s AAPI Liaison Program
March 11, 2022
Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force Blog
Orange County Sheriff’s Office’s AAPI Liaison Program
In 2020, law enforcement agencies across the U.S. reported 8,263 hate crime incidents to the FBI, the highest number of hate crimes reported since 2008. The FBI defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” According to the 2020 report, over 60% of victims were targeted because of race, ethnicity, or ancestry bias.
Anti-Asian hate crimes have skyrocketed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing by 76% in 2020, according to FBI data. A recent preliminary report from California State University, San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism found that hate crimes overall increased by 46% in 2021, and anti-Asian hate crimes increased by a staggering 339%. Given that between 2015-2019 only about 40% of hate crimes were reported to law enforcement, it is likely that the actual number of hate crimes is much higher. This deficiency in reporting can be at least partially attributed to the lack of trust in law enforcement within immigrant communities.
The Department of Justice reported: “Hate crime victims include not only the crime’s immediate target but also others like them. Hate crimes affect families, communities, and at times, the entire nation.” For this reason, it is imperative that law enforcement agencies establish strong relationships with communities experiencing hate crimes.
Recently, the Orange County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office launched its Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Liaisons program. Currently there are 7 liaisons serving in the program, including two who are fluent in Vietnamese and Mandarin Chinese and others who have conversational proficiency in languages spoken in the AAPI community. In the interview below, Orange County Sheriff John Mina discusses the process of creating the liaison program and the important work the liaisons do for the AAPI community.
What led you to start the AAPI liaison program?
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office was approached by the NAACP and requested our assistance with developing an AAPI liaison unit similar to our existing LGBTQ liaisons. We have a large Asian population in Central Florida as well as our international tourist visitors, which led us to recognize the need to provide additional services to our community.
What did the process of starting the program entail? How did you collaborate with the AAPI community while designing it?
We reached out across our agency to request that all of our AAPI deputies send us their interest in participating and include their background and any language skills. Many of our deputies were already helping informally in this capacity, especially with translation and communication with victims of crimes.
When the liaisons were being selected, what were the qualities you looked for in a successful candidate?
Mainly the interest in representing their culture, willingness to participate above and beyond their regular law enforcement duties, and ability to communicate in other languages was a huge bonus.
What are the core responsibilities of a liaison? What kind of events / activities do you participate in?
Our team leader, Deputy Thomas Lin, has already been involved with the Asian American Chamber of Commerce and works closely with the Orange County Government AAPI liaison. They attend community events, answer correspondence to our AAPI email distribution list, assist investigative units with any language or cultural barriers that may exist when reporting crimes, and help build trust as a visible member of the AAPI community in law enforcement to help with our recruiting efforts.
What are some of the challenges when it comes to establishing and maintaining trust between law enforcement and the AAPI community?
Typically, the language barrier is a common problem, but we also have many resources in addition to the liaisons, such as the Language Line to help with translations. Culturally, it seems crime is under reported from the AAPI community, whether due to embarrassment of victimization or not wanting to draw attention to their personal matters. It is our hope that they feel safe and comfortable in calling us for assistance.
What has been the response from the AAPI community?
Overwhelmingly positive. Businesses have requested the liaisons for presentations or to help for security details, families love taking photos with them, and we expect it to only get better from here.
LEITF thanks Sheriff Mina for taking the time to share about this program and commends his department for this crucial work that is enhancing the trust the AAPI community has with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.