Examining “La Ayuda”: Law Enforcement and Latinos on Long Island during COVID-19
Keywords:policing, COVID-19, Long Island, Latinos, immigration, qualitative
As part of their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, law enforcement agencies in Long Island’s Suffolk and Nassau Counties reached out to Latino immigrant communities with a message to “educate over enforce.” Yet, this messaging did not echo enough in the lives of immigrant communities who were the most vulnerable and hardest hit populations in the area. Based on fieldnotes from sixteen virtual meetings spanning five months (March–July), which are part of a larger qualitative project, we argue that communication gaps persisted and continued to plague community/police relations in several ways. First, the messaging around education was a one-way street with very little input from community members. Second, “light” enforcement still took place with the issuing of summons on social distancing and requiring mask wearing. Third, the closing down of precincts meant that there was no way to access police services, especially in Spanish, the community’s language. Finally, law enforcement’s response to the community’s needs was “virtually” absent. We conclude this examination with lessons learned so police departments can better serve and protect the immigrant community.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Karen Tejada-Peña, Natalia Navas
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