Local law goes abroad
Woodburn Police Department has imbued its training and culture with a global texture, and that component serves to enhance policing perspectives home and abroad.
WPD recently announced that a couple of officers have participated in the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), and more will follow. The gist of the program is that it facilitates U.S. law enforcement travel abroad, in this case to Bangladesh, where the officers train and share ideas with overseas law enforcement personnel.
ICITAP website describes the scope of the program:
"The International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) works with foreign governments to develop professional and transparent law enforcement institutions that protect human rights, combat corruption, and reduce the threat of transnational crime and terrorism. ICITAP provides international development assistance that supports both national security and foreign policy objectives."
Although it sounds like a lofty aim, juxtaposing the interaction of local, grassroots police hailing from the Willamette Valley mixing methods with law enforcement halfway around the world. But local participants have attested that the program struck them as a boon for law enforcement worldwide.
WPD Det. Linda Hedricks participated in the program in November, and Det. Aaron DeVoe just returned from Bangladesh on Dec. 23. Chief Jim Ferraris said he plans to have more officers involved, beginning with Patrol Sgt. Geoffrey Carpenter, who will be heading overseas early this year.
Hedricks made the department's pioneering foray to Bangladesh.
"When the department selected me to participate in the ICITAP program in Bangladesh, I was excited and a bit apprehensive. I had never traveled internationally, although I had always wanted to," Hedricks recalled. "The opportunity to travel to Bangladesh and exchange knowledge, skills and experiences with members of the Bangladesh police was a true honor. The United States instructor team was made up of myself and two Multnomah County Sheriff sergeants, Stephen Dangler and Keith Bybee."
Hedricks reported that the first week there she attended the Women's Leadership Institute training in Dhaka where she met female police officers from Pakistan, Indonesia as well as Bangladesh. They shared insights in the struggles of female officers, especially in countries that culturally uphold restrictive views on women's roles, and about the overall trending of developing a stronger female presence in law enforcement abroad, both at the street and administrative level.
Another curriculum component involved "Countering Violent Extremism," which involved working in groups with Bangladesh instructors.
"We had two very professional and experienced language assistants, Nabil Choudhury and Tanvir Ahmad, who helped us not only communicate to them members of the class, but helped us navigate the city making sure we saw as much of (host city) Chittagong, Bangladesh as possible," Hedricks said.
The detective said learning of the culture up close was both eye-opening and mind broadening. She said the hosts treated their guests well, and they evinced a palpable pride in their culture and traditions, which they were eager to share.
Moreover, the interaction was mutually beneficial.
"As with any country, there is always room for improvement and as police officers we never stop learning, no matter where you are in the world," Hedricks said. "I know spreading the educational informational about countering violent extremism to the Bangladesh police benefits the citizens of the United States and all other nations. I would definitely go again, if given the opportunity."
Hedricks' inaugural experience provided a backdrop for DeVoe, but he also put some considerable preparation in advance.
"I tried to keep an open mind before going and not show up with many preconceived ideas about how the program would be or how my stay would be," DeVoe said shortly after returning. "Det. Hedricks returned from Bangladesh a few days before I left, so I was able to get a rough idea of what to expect during the program.
"I watched several videos of people who traveled through Bangladesh and did other research on the country and the Bangladeshi people," he added. "I knew driving and traffic in Bangladesh would be something else, but descriptions and videos don't do justice to how fast paced and frenetic it is; also there's honking -- constant honking."
DeVoe visited Sylhet, which was much deeper inland that the coastal Chittagong of Hedricks experience.
"My team was the first to provide countering violent extremism training to the Bangladesh police in the city of Sylhet," DeVoe explained. "Each team is told to be flexible and ready to adapt to the inevitable changes that happen once in country. As our team was the first in Sylhet, I expected that would be even truer for us as we would be ironing out details and for lack of a better phrase, trailblazing, for the teams that would follow us."
DeVoe also had some eye-opening encounters and experiences, juxtaposing law enforcement in Bangladesh with that at home. But he was ultimately struck more by a commonality.
"I think seeing that people are people and we all have the same basic needs and desires, like respect, compassion, and safety, made working together and relating to the students and people pretty easy," he said. "I see the law-enforcement profession as a community and believe people all over the world who take the extra step to serve and protect their fellow citizens share a special bond."
During a lesson about community, DeVoe probed his students, asking them if they thought he was part of their community. They were reluctant; DeVoe and the Sylhet contingent hail from vastly different geographies, speak a different language and were raised in distinctly different cultures.
But he forged a bond.
"I explained that as law enforcement officers we have many things that bring us together and make us a community," DeVoe related. "Our dedication to service, the position of authority we are trusted with, and the unique aspects of our job that only others in law enforcement can fully appreciate. It was great to spread that idea to some community members on the other side of the world."
While community policing has gained significant traction in the western hemisphere, it's a relatively new phenomenon in Bangladesh.
"Law enforcement in Bangladesh is still relatively new to the idea of community policing, but they are working hard to get the best results they can by working together," DeVoe explained, stressing the U.S. has four decades of experience working with the community policing model.
"It was great to see some skeptical students turn into proponents of community policing and the methods for countering violent extremism," he said. "The foundation for the countering violent extremism training is strong community engagement and continues on from there."
Overall, DeVoe feels the training enables Bangladesh officers to become more adept at preventing extremism and violence.
"For the ones who choose to walk that (extremist) path, I think the officers now have more tools and training to identify and stop them before tragedy happens," DeVoe said. "I think that benefits the people of Bangladesh and people around the world. As we have seen in the past, extremism, violence and terrorism can reach out and strike far away, as well as close to home."
Ferraris said the program has been a remarkable tool for his squads, both here in Woodburn and with the Portland Police Bureau where he first became familiar with ICITAP.
The chief noted that a retired Portland police officer, Randy Butler, owns Learn International, a company that delivers a variety of law enforcement projects ranging from leadership preparation to critical incident command and SWAT training. ICITAP is among those.
"Learn facilitates these missions. Prior to Randy having the ICITAP contract, Portland Police Bureau was the primary agency on the mission," Ferraris said. "That's when I became familiar with it, during my time as a Portland Police Bureau assistant chief and precinct commander. Several Portland Police officers working for me participated in the missions."
That unique, time-tested training continues, and beyond law-enforcement enhancement, it provides a broader vision for those who experience it.
"Other officers from the United States who have participated in the program previously told us the program was life changing," Hedricks mused. "I can tell you it most definitely changes how you view the world around you and it gave me a deeper respect for their culture and the struggles the people of Bangladesh are going through."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.