San Gabriel police, Chinese community strengthen bonds

With about 20 to 30 participants gathered in a room at the Chinese Christian Herald Crusades on a Saturday morning, Officer Huynh Nhat and Reserve Officer Jack Yao hosted a community meeting that covered a range of topics, ranging from neighborhood watch groups to domestic violence. However, unlike many community meetings offered by the police department, this one was specifically tailored to the Chinese-speaking community.

“I noticed there wasn’t a lot of Chinese-speaking residents participating in city events, and I wanted to understand why,” said Officer Huynh Nhat. “I wanted to understand how they perceive local law enforcement, and how the department can reach out to them to better serve the community.”

To reach out to Chinese speaking residents, Nhat pitched an idea to create a series of community meetings that could bridge the gap between the Chinese-speaking community and the police department. The first meeting would cover common policing issues that could serve as an introductory link. “The topics we went over were generic, such as domestic violence and home burglaries,” Nhat said. “These topics were chosen so participants could feel safe and comfortable reaching out to the police department.”

To advertise the event, the city embarked on a small social campaign on WeChat and Weibo, creating tailor-made videos with Reserve Officer Jack Yao. “Our goal was to reach out to the community, and to ask what they need from us,” Yao said.

During the meeting, Officer Nhat presented an English presentation with Reserve Officer Yao providing translations in Mandarin. Other members of the department, including Lieutenant Fabian Valdez and Police Chief Eugene Harris, were also in attendance to provide support and to answer any potential questions.

Once the presentation concluded, several residents provided feedback about what they would like to see from the police department. “A few participants came up to me and expressed that they were happy with the event, and were appreciative that it was targeted towards Chinese speakers,” Nhat said. “I had the impression that they felt left out.”

“We wanted to reach out to Chinese speakers to let them know that there was someone to help them,” Yao said. “That’s why I like helping the city – I want to utilize my Mandarin speaking skills to help the community.”

Given the turnout, both Officer Nhat and Reserve Officer Yao expressed a desire to hold additional community meetings in the future. “We want to reach even more people, and we’re looking at locations in the north and south side of the city,” Yao said.