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By Senta Scarborough
The Arizona Republic

MESA, Ariz. - When Mesa Police Chief George Gascón arrived in Mesa nearly two years ago, he immediately reached out and listened.
One of those efforts, community forums, is featured in a paper written and presented as part of a Harvard University program.
"It (Mesa's forums) are a really an innovative model," said Marea Beeman, a Harvard senior research associate who oversaw the paper. "The hope is people can use it (the paper) as a tool in their community."
The paper, "Strengthening Relations Between Local Police and Immigrant Communities: The Role for Human Rights Commission," was created to offer suggestions on how human rights commissions can reduce tension and improve relationships between police and immigrant communities.
One of the models of what's working is found in Mesa.
In 2006, Gascón created nine Police Chief Community Forums, targeting African Americans, business, clergy, disabilities, Hispanic, human rights, Native American, seniors and youth.
The paper said the chief's Hispanic forum played a "crucial role" in reducing community concerns after a police shooting.
The late 2007 police shooting, involving a young knife-wielding Hispanic man who was shot to death by police, was a reminder of a similar shooting in 2003.
In the earlier shooting, 15-year-old Mario Madrigal was shot and killed by police in his kitchen, and led to outrage and protests in the Hispanic community.
In early hours after the 2007 shooting, Gascón called members of the Hispanic community forum to tell them what he knew and to assure them that the incident was being "thoroughly" investigated. The next day, Gascón met with members from all of the forums.
"The incident demonstrates it is useful to build a network you can get to when there is an incident and reduce the negative impact that can snowball," Beeman said.
The executive sessions program, formed in 1980, are part of Harvard's John F. Kenne

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