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Hillsboro officer teaching police in South Asia

Dave White, a sergeant with the Hillsboro Police Department and a resident of Banks, left Oregon for Bangladesh Nov. 6 to teach community policing and modern policing techniques to law enforcement personnel there. The Hillsboro Tribune is following White’s adventures in the South Asian country by running excerpts from his Facebook page, “Suspenders in Bangladesh: The Adventures of a Redneck Abroad,” this week and next.

“Hillsboro sent him over to teach their law enforcement about law enforcement,” said his wife, Jeanne White. “He’ll get back home the day before Thanksgiving.” Photo Credit: COURTESY PHOTOS - Hillsboro Police Sgt. Dave White with class interpreters Edward (center) and Timbers (right) and the man (back) who opens the door and brings them tea each morning. I say a short answer, [Timbers] gives a long reply ... I give a long answer, he says three words, writes White.

For White, the three-week sojourn is a work trip.

“I’m here representing [the] Hillsboro Police Department [and] am the first one to go from our agency,” White said.

Some Bangladeshi police policies and methods are from the 1940s, White said. “Corruption is the norm here. We are trying to change the corruption culture so the police can be trusted by the people they serve. Our goal is to plant the seeds of change, to benefit all Bengali people with their interactions with the police.”

On the flip side, HPD will benefit from “cultural diversity training on steroids,” he’s receiving, White said. “Being exposed to a third world country will give me and others who come better insight when dealing with immigrant populations in our own community.”

White left for Tokyo Nov. 6 and arrived in Dhaka Nov. 8. Here are small excerpts from his long, fascinating Facebook posts, which include many more photos and even videos.

Nov. 7

[On the flight to Bangkok], there was a 4-foot-6 woman who sat in the middle seat. Her hair was blond, ruddy face, with inch-long fake eyelashes. For about an hour her head was on my shoulder while she slept. I was going to take a selfie but she gave off a vibe she did not have much use for where she was sitting. [Hillsboro] Chief [Lee Dobrowolski] had told me “No international incidents, Dave. None.” Taking a photo of an already irritated woman might start one. I chose the side of caution. After six hours of sitting next to an angry woman who likes to cuddle, I was ready to get off that plane.

Nov. 8

I got up early and made sure I would make my flight to Dhaka.

Dhaka is pretty crowded. There is no place I have been that I can compare it to. New York had the traffic, but not the people and the motorcycles. There is no pedestrian right of way here. I saw buses packed with people, some even riding on top. After the carnival ride I was dropped off at the motel. Two guys were standing outside the front doors with rifles ... like World War II-era rifles. Somehow this was comforting.

Nov. 9

Wow, what a day. The International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) is part of the Department of Justice that works closely with the Department of State. They work with local law enforcement, educate about human rights, and bring in never-been-overseas rednecks, like me, to teach.

The Bangladesh people [have] nicknames, a time-honored tradition in law enforcement. “Doc” is the driver. His driving ability is surgical, cutting in and out, dodging rickshaws, cars and people.

My first day of class was interesting. We had a lively discussion as to when torture could be used. What I was most impressed with was their reactions to some of the videos of human-rights violations. They recoiled, shook their heads in disgust and frowned. Clear to me that what they were seeing was unacceptable. I had been warned not to come here with preconceived notions of what the police are about. Yes they have been known to torture, yes they have been known to get into crossfires where only the suspects are hit, but after watching their reactions I could now add that yes they are caring feeling human beings. If you know one way of doing things and you are successful, you stick to it. Just because you may not like it, it’s what you know. I taught for half the day. They get my humor about one-third of the time. Difficult for me.

Nov. 11

We have a rock star in class. He recently investigated three murders which led to the arrest of three high-ranking RAB (Rapid Action Battalion, a paramilitary group that does anti-terrorism and police work) members. He is salt of the earth. He reminds me of a TV-style NYPD cop. He knows how to investigate, may use a little unorthodox methods, but gets the job done. He knows what he is talking about and likes to question how we do things and ask why we do them that way. I have little doubt he knows the answers, he is just seeing if I do. My kind of guy. No bovine scat and not afraid to call it how he sees it. I know I could learn a ton from him.

I was talking about fingerprints (arches, deltas, whorls ... etc.), basically things I know little about. (Yes I know what fingerprints are ... I lift them, I don’t analyze them.) One of the students corrected me. Turns out he was a fingerprint examiner, an expert. I asked him if he would be willing to teach the examination portion. He agreed. As he explained what each ridge, delta, whorl was in Bengali, I understood every word. He switched to English, I think to help teach me, but English was unnecessary. He was, as I said, an expert and did a much better job than I could have.

Nov. 14

We were [at the police department] early again and walked up to the roof. It’s an amazing view. Watching the construction workers without any safety equipment was as terrifying as it was mesmerizing.

One of the students pointed out that theft is taken very seriously here. He asked if I knew why that was. Aside from the fact no one likes a thief, I did not have a clue. He explained that they were under British Colonial rule, and at that time they had harsh punishments for stealing because they (the British) owned the place. He told me the punishment for stealing was death. Holy wow.

We taught a section on rape. The question was asked if rape was the woman’s fault. Two out of 25 said yes. I was impressed on two levels. One, the vast majority were quick to shake their heads no and look disgusted. Two, that two people actually said it was the woman’s fault. The reason I was impressed with the second was because when they said it was, there was a lively discussion in class about the ridiculousness of their position. They were honest in their opinion and were not afraid to express it.

We in the U.S. hear a lot about how rape is treated in India and other Asian countries. What I gained from the discussion was that the vast majority know whose fault rape is. I also felt we gave the two a different perspective. If we can change their (the two) beliefs by what we have said in class, or through peer pressure, then we have succeeded. If the next time they handle a rape case and think about what they were taught, adjust their mindset, know that rape is about power and it is not the woman’s fault, then this trip will be a complete success.

I have been guilty of looking at the beliefs of a few of another’s culture and using a broad brush to paint the entire culture. Some folks might read the part about rape and use it to validate their own beliefs that folks here think rape is OK. I hope that is not the case. As a majority, people here do not.

The folks we are teaching are investigators. They work in one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Imagine someone getting victimized on a sidewalk here. People are going to trample through the crime scene, then once the police arrive, are going to continue to stand around and watch. A crime scene nightmare.

One of the students, a super sharp guy with a henna dyed beard, was lamenting about how we taught them to set up crime scene tape and he wished it would work that way in Dhaka. To prove his point he showed me some photos of a crime scene. There were ordinary people next to the body, one was standing on/in the edge of a pool of blood. I could feel the detective’s pain. How do they solve crimes here with possibly huge pieces of the puzzle missing? Well there are a lot of people here, therefore the high probability of a few witnesses.

Nov. 15

I understand how frustrating it can be when a suspect is not going to confess. But I also get that we as the police are there to protect civil rights, human rights if you will. We don’t lay hands on people when they don’t want to talk. To say during my career I have never wanted to slap a guy across the face with a New York City phone book would be untruthful, but that is not how we do business, ever.

So the big question for me is how do I get across to a group of people who know one way that is effective (well, people who are given the “third degree” tell them what they want to hear but the conviction rate is only about 20 percent. It’s not just the confession portion, some is the system, but the manner in which the confession is received plays a part in the low conviction rate) to try another — longer — method.

I told them what a colloquialism for insanity is. Doing something the same way over and over and over again and expecting a different result: 20 percent? How about trying something different? I feel like a true believer, I know you don’t have to tune someone up to get a confession. People are generally (almost all) good. Even the criminals. They may have committed bad acts but deep down they are, or want to be, good. There is a truism for me that says confession is good for the soul. I believe that. Because I believe people at their core are good, therefore I believe they feel relief when they own up and confess. I also believe that I can change people’s minds by reason, logic, and sheer force of will when necessary.

Next week: Excerpts from Nov. 16-23. You can read all of Dave White’s postings at facebook.com/SuspendersInBangladesh.

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