East African / Somali Youth

Below are categories for questions that have been answered by community members. Keep in mind that the following responses may represent many members of this group but do not represent all people in a community. Not all people from diverse populations conform to commonly known culture-specific behaviors, beliefs and actions. Each person is an individual, as well as a community member.

What cultural / ethnic / religious traditions or beliefs should law enforcement be aware of?

  • Somali youth are part of big families and live in multi-generational household.
  • Somali youth frequently share a common language, Somali, however most youth speak English.
  • Youth tend to share close relationships and connect with each other because they share the same culture.
  • Somali youth practice Islamic traditions. They bow, kneel and pray five times a day on a prayer rug in an area that is clean.

What is the appropriate manner to greet you? (demeanor, non-verbal, body space, handshake, bow, male-female interaction etc.)

  • "Salaam" "Assalamu Alaikum" - "Peace be with you." This is a common greeting among Muslims.
  • When approaching, smile, be positive and offer a handshake. However, do not hug or shake hands with a person of a different gender.
  • Do not bow because Muslims only bow down to God.
  • Youth often do not engage in direct eye contact, as it is considered a sign of disrespect.
  • Be aware of respecting personal body space. Stand a few steps away.

Who should be addressed or acknowledged first? Who is the head of the household?

  • Acknowledge the eldest male first. The male is considered the head of the household.
  • If only women are at home, it is important to give them sufficient time to cover.
  • If available, it's better to have a translator, instead of having the youth translate.
  • If possible, a same gender officer should interact with family members.
  • In most households, residents do not wear shoes within the home. Wear footies or shoe covering prior to entering the home, if available or provided.

What is your view / perception of law enforcement? What are your experiences with law enforcement?

  • Certain actions by police officers can be perceived as them being above the law instead of being enforcers of the law. They should be mindful of their tone and language.
  • Police are often viewed as mean, apathetic, and overreactive.
  • Police can be viewed as sarcastic and unclear about stating their intentions when stopping youth. Police officers should be more approachable and clearly explain what is happening and what their intentions are.
  • Police officers should be more interactive, build relationships, and provide more community policing to engage with youth and community members before a crime occurs.
  • Police officers should be conscious about where their hands are placed; resting your hand on your gun can be perceived as threatening.