Former refugee speaks on importance of Boise Police Dept. liaison position

Posted at 4:39 PM, Feb 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-11 18:40:39-05

Officer Jessica Perkins is a few weeks into her new position as refugee liaison for Boise Police Department.

"It gives one face to the pd for this entire community to look to, and know that they can call me directly to report a crime and not just whatever patrol officer happens to respond to their neighborhood, they can contact me directly if they have questions," said Perkins, "'I'm to one showing up to give education."

Still she's faced with a difficult task; keeping the trust of the community that her predecessors earned.

"You need that when dealing with refugees because the one thing we've lost over time, is trust," said former refugee from Democratic Republic of Congo Fidel Nshambo.

Fidel Nshombo came to Boise in 2006 after living at a refugee camp in Zimbabwe and other parts of Africa. He says his interactions as a refugee in Africa starkly contrast with those here in Idaho.

"Life was different because you are actually kept away from the nation and citizens from that country, and you stay there for year and years and you don't get to see the city or much," said Nshombo.

Adjusting to a completely new life meant learning a new place, language and culture. The liaison position is pivotal in helping them integrate and understand the criminal justice system.

"Sometimes cultures are different, and because of those differences in cultures, it is easy for people coming here to get in trouble without knowing they actually made a mistake because of the culture differences," said Nshombo.

Nshombo says differences include ones mainly related to family, such as child disciplinary methods, domestic battery and alcohol-related laws. For example, refugees might come from a place where the legal drinking age is 18, or their discipline methods towards their children might be considered extreme in the United States. This is where officer Perkins steps in, to answer any questions.

"Where we come from, we just don't hangout with the police, we see them we run away, because most of them are the bad guys," said Nshombo,
"but now we have that trust."