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Brazilian police visit central Texas in community policing exchange

A Brazilian police delegation will make a two-week visit to the Austin area Sept. 5-18 to receive special training in community policing techniques, tour law enforcement facilities and engage in dialogue with academics, community leaders and government officials.

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AUSTIN, Texas—A Brazilian police delegation will make a two-week visit to the Austin area Sept. 5-18 to receive special training in community policing techniques, tour law enforcement facilities and engage in dialogue with academics, community leaders and government officials.

In the first phase of the exchange, a group from central Texas, which included Georgetown and Austin police officers, traveled to Minas Gerais, Brazil, to learn about its community policing initiatives.

The primary goal of community policing is to improve public safety and reduce the fear of crime by proactively addressing the root causes of crime and disorder. It is a long-term, interdisciplinary approach that calls for a high degree of community engagement. Several organizations from The University of Texas at Austin, including the LBJ School’s Texas Institute for Public Problem Solving (TIPPS) and the Brazil Center, have teamed up with the João Pinheiro Foundation in Minas Gerais to make the Texas-Brazil exchange both a practical and an intellectual experience.

A highlight of the program will be a public forum on the role of police in strengthening communities, featuring Austin Police Chief Stanley Knee and his Brazilian counterpart, Minas Gerais Chief Col. Renato Vieira de Souza. The forum will take place from 6-8 p.m. on Sept. 15 at the Thompson Conference Center Auditorium at The University of Texas at Austin. 

Other activities scheduled for the Brazilian delegation include visits to the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, and the Austin, Georgetown and Cedar Park police departments and SafePlace.

“The best way to ensure public safety is not to catch crooks. It’s to prevent the crime from ever occurring in the first place,” said TIPPS Director Bill Spelman. “It’s a lot more intellectual than the old cop work of catching bad guys.”

Spearheaded by TIPPS, the program received nearly $100,000 in U.S. State Department funding by way of the Narcotics Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Brazil, which highlights growing international interest in community policing models.

According to TIPPS staff member Kristin Lion, who designed the Texas-Brazil exchange, both sides stand to benefit from the program.

“The Brazilians are eager to learn more about programs dealing with domestic violence and school safety that have had success in Texas,” said Lion. “On the other side, the group from Texas is very interested in the state-of-the art crime mapping system in place in Minas Gerais.

“Exposure to a foreign culture will challenge the participants to open their minds and deepen their sensitivity toward people from distinct backgrounds,” said Lion. “The hope is that they will carry the experience back to their communities.”

For more information, contact 512-471-0658 or visit the Texas-Brazil Police Exchange Web site.

For more information contact: Megan Scarborough, LBJ School of Public Affairs, 512-471-8954.