116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa City police hires Community Outreach Assistant
The Iowa City Police Department has hired another outreach assistant in an attempt to bridge the gap between the police and the community, especially marginalized groups.
Earlier this year, the department hired Joshua Dabusu to work as the department’s first Immigrant and Refugee Community Outreach Assistant. Now, Veronica May has been hired as the new general Community Outreach Assistant.
The role of the community outreach team is to educate the public on the role of the police department, and build relationships between community members and police.
“I hope to help community members understand the responsibilities of the police department, all the services that are offered, and then also connect them with the resources that they might need,” May said. “I also hope to have a very transparent and honest relationship with the community, where they feel comfortable reaching out and asking any questions that they have, and they understand that the police are more than just here to address emergency situations.”
May has lived in Iowa City for five years, where she worked as an insurance representative before getting this job. She was born in Canada and lived the first few years of her life in East India, where her parents are from, before moving back to Canada.
May worked in outreach with the YMCA in Canada for eight years before moving to Iowa, and she said she’d been hoping to get back into outreach work when she saw the position at the police department had opened and she decided to apply.
“It’s something that I’ve always been really passionate about,” May said.
Since May started with the department at the beginning of November, she’s done several outreach and engagement sessions with schools, churches, nonprofit organizations and other community groups. For example, she’s reached out to senior centers in the area to hold education sessions about fraud.
May also works closely with Dabusu to reach out to immigrant communities in the city. May’s first language is Punjabi, and Dabusu, who is from the Congo, speaks French and Lingala, so between the two of them, they’re able to connect with many of the immigrant communities in the city.
May said she believes her experience as an immigrant, both to Canada and then again to the United States, has helped her understand better what help those communities need. She also spent time in the foster care system growing up, which she said has given her a unique perspective that helps her with this job.
“Because my parents came to Canada after India, unfortunately, being immigrants, they didn’t really know what they were doing. Sometimes, things weren’t so easy for them. It wasn’t easy to get jobs. It wasn’t easy to keep the household running, and we ended up in foster care,” May said. “So, I understand what it feels like to come from another country, to be an immigrant, to face hardship, to not understand what resources are available. And then, I also understand the aspect of being in the foster system as a child of immigrant parents.”
Coming from an “adverse background” has helped May in her job by allowing her to notice needs that others may not see, she said. For example, when she heard about the winter clothing drive the police department would be hosting at the beginning of December, she immediately thought of the people she has known who would benefit from such an event. She realized that many of the people who are in need of coats and hats also don’t have reliable transportation or money for bus fare, and they may need to work during the day, when the drive was taking place.
She brought these concerns to the department, and they worked to overcome those hurdles. The hours of the drive were extended into the evening, and a free, volunteer-run bus route was set up the day of the drive. May also made sure the bus route stopped in front of various community organizations, like the Shelter House, to increase access for as many people as possible.
“That’s what I mean when I say that I come from an adverse background, so I have a deeper understanding of what is needed, and I also feel more comfortable finding out what more we can do to help that community,” May said.
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