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May 18, 2006
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Ohio police, Somalis come up with ways to work together

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio- Leaders of the local Somali community and law enforcement officials have devised ways to work together and improve relations that were strained after a fatal police shooting.

They announced their plans Wednesday after six meetings that followed the death of Nasir Abdi on Dec. 28. Abdi, 23, was shot as four Franklin County sheriff's deputies tried to take him back to a mental hospital.

The sheriff's office said Abdi threatened the deputies with a knife. Somali leaders said witnesses never saw the knife, and about 600 Somalis protested at City Hall a week later. A grand jury did not issue an indictment in the shooting.

Police officials have agreed to establish an advisory committee to act as a link to Somalis, participate in cultural diversity classes and provide education for Somalis about local laws and enforcement.

The Somalis will provide a list of leaders who can assist police in an emergency and help police create a training video for their community.

Officials said police procedures differ in the United States and Somalia, where stopped motorists get out of their cars and walk over to an officer's car, a move police here might consider threatening.

To overcome the language barrier, Franklin County deputies will receive cards asking questions in Somali such as a person's name and address, Chief Deputy Gil Jones said.

Hawa Siad, director of the Somali Women and Children's Alliance, said the directives can't be considered a success until they are implemented.

"Sometimes people come to an agreement and all points are not met and I want to make sure they are met," she said.

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