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September 20, 1991 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-09-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Affording the best is not the
questionmfinding the best is.

A first ...
Apartment living in a
Skilled Nursing Facility

For the discriminating person
requiring an elegant environment

Health Care

Family owned and operated for over 33 years
Medicare approved

Overlooking two beautiful lakes


For our limousine to pick you up for a personal tour of our facility

6470 Alden Drive, Orchard Lake



Save On:
FURNITURE • Contemporary

26195 Greenfield
Lincoln Square Shopping Center
Southfield • 559-9700



• Traditional
• Imports

Dining Room Sets
Kitchen Sets
Bedroom Sets

Walking The Beat

Continued from preceding page

cooperation from the com-
Much . of that cooperation
springs from a good relation-
ship with citizens and
neighborhoods. Understan-
ding ethnic minorities often
is central in this relation-
ship. "You can't separate
good community relation-
ships from good police
work," Mr. Lobenthal said.
Oak Park hosts, among
others, traditional Jews,
Chaldeans, blacks and re-
cent Soviet emigres. The
potential for police
misunderstanding of the
community is present so
Oak Park's public safety
department tries to be as
sensitive as possible.
The department recruits
personnel — cross-trained
for both police and fire duty
— who both reflect and
understand the community.
Hiring minorities is a cons-
tant struggle: of 70 public
safety officers, only four are
non-white. Two years ago,
there was only one.
"Oak Park has had very
unique and progressive
ideas about working within
a community," said Dr.
Roger Wittrup, a Birm-
ingham psychologist who
analyzes candidates for the
Oak Park police force. "They
will not tolerate things that
are sometimes tolerated in
other departments."
Applicants to the Oak
Park police undergo a
background check that in-
cludes interviews with
friends, family and
neighbors of the applicant.
Among other things, Dr.
Wittrup seeks to uncover in-
tolerance or ignorance of
minority concerns.
"I'm looking for somebody
who has taken an opportuni-
ty to learn about others," the
doctor said.
The key to sensitive law
enforcement, said Robert
Seifert, Oak Park's director
of public safety, is applying
the law impartially.
"We demand a single
standard of justice," he said.
"The job is really simplified
if you can remember that
justice is blind."
A single standard of
justice, he said, means
taking every complaint seri-
ously, regardless of who
makes it and why.
"Treat everybody as you
would want yourself
treated," Mr. Seifert said.
"It's pretty simple."
Experience counts, too.
Rookie officers frequently
have to learn about ethnic
customs, like when Jewish
holidays occur and how that
affects law enforcement in
Jewish neighborhoods.

Southfield's police and fire
forces have been taught
Chaldean phrases for use in
emergencies. Professional
speakers are brought in to
speak to officers on under-
standing the customs and
patterns of several ethnic
"A lot of these people are
new to this country and they
don't understand our laws,"
said Bob Jenkins, Oak
Park's emergency services
coordinator. Certain groups
have their own habits, as
well. Many Chaldean
shopowners, who work until
midnight in some areas,
have outdoor barbeques
when store hours are over.
The resulting noise can
cause friction between
neighbors — friction that of-
ficers frequently have to
When confronted with the
late-night noise problem,
Southfield encouraged the

Police clad like
Nazi stormtroopers

Chaldean shopowners to use
city parks far from neigh-
Pity the officer who has to
intercede in a family squab-
ble where the argument is
entirely in Russian.
"It's hard enough to go
into a family situation
where English is spoken,"
said Mr. Jenkins. "Imagine
what it's like where you
don't understand what peo-
ple are saying."
Even an off-color remark
or seemingly harmless
gesture can result in
misunderstanding between
an officer and a resident.
Southfield's public safety di-
rector, Jerry Tobin, said his
officers had to be told not to
call Chaldean homes
"Madonna Houses," because
of the Madonna statues fre-
quently placed on the front
"You can't stereotype or
put people into a category,"
Mr. Tobin said. "Our officers
need to know that their ac-
tions — their words, their
body language — can in-
stigate a situation or cause it
to escalate."
The whole approach, said
Mr. Tobin, is proper train-
ing. Without it, a city ex-
poses itself both to
misunderstanding and
"If you don't understand
the community you're polic-
ing, you're going to have a
problem," said Mr. Tobin. ❑

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