JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A Forum was held at the St. Bernards Auditorium Saturday afternoon aimed at opening the lines of communication between the Hispanic community and city officials.
The Jonesboro Police Department used this time to discuss several different laws and how they apply to all residents. They also explained the procedure for traffic stops and what they try to do if the resident nor the officer are bilingual.
Special Sanders, an organizer with the Arkansas United Community Coalition, believes being better informed will help residents have a more positive interaction with officers.
"When it comes to traffic stops, a lot of the time the immigrants speak english as a second language and so they don't know what the proper protocol is, so they may have what they deem as a negative experience when in fact it's just a lack of knowledge," Sanders said.
Sanders explained that AUCC has organized similar meetings in Western Arkansas, but this is the first one they have been involved in on the eastern side of the state. She said their panels involving law enforcement and immigrants have been very successful so far.
Executive Director for the Hispanic Community Services Incorporated, Gina Gomez, said that the session was aimed to better inform the citizens.
"Sometimes we have people who move to the states, and they don't understand the difference between the laws in our Hispanic countries and the law in the United States," Gomez said. "So I think that this will be basically an educational session."
Jonesboro Mayor Herald Perrin, Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott, and other police officers attended the forum. Chief Elliott said his goal is to better communication, not only the Hispanic community, but all citizens.
Officers also discussed how to report crimes and different services available to the public.