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Immigrant families, Seattle police officers celebrate program that brought them together

Immigrant families, Seattle police officers celebrate program that brought them together. (KOMO News)

SEATTLE -- Seattle City Hall is usually a quiet place on the weekends. But Saturday morning, a small and perhaps unlikely gathering filled its rooms.

Saturday marked the second annual Immigrant Family Institute, put on by the city and its police department to help address what everyone knows is a problem.

"There is a fear and mistrust in police, and this fear and mistrust as not only been in headlines across the country, but it's also been here in Seattle,"

Once a week for the last couple months, police out of uniform and on their own time, would meet with families and children like 11-year-old Jimmy Bui.

"I thought they were mean, intimidating..." Bui said.

Jimmy and his family moved here form Vietnam about four years ago, and the boy's opinion of police wasn't very high.

But after playing soccer and musical chairs, a discovery was made.

"The police are actually really nice," Bui said.

The experience went both ways.

"I, myself, come from an immigrant family. But I feel a lot of times you do the job and you become a little distant of other people's experiences," Seattle police officer Sergio Vergara said. "I learned what concerns them when interacting with us, and it helped me guide my police work toward their concerns."

All of the problems between police and communities of color were not solved Saturday, but behind the photos and smiles and hugs, were genuine efforts from both sides at a brighter future.

"It is not versus them, it is all of us together," Seattle Police Department chief Carmen Best said.

Which for these families, made it the right occasion to celebrate their new members.

At the suggestion of families who've been through this program, the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs will be offering a new parenting skills course in July and is looking to talk to families who might be interested.

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