Interview with Officer Ha 7/9 Transcript by James Han
Prince: Hello, and good afternoon everybody. Welcome to watching this interview session with Metro Nashville Police Department officer Jeff Ha. Officer, we are very thrilled to have you here again today to talk about some popular questions and hopefully we could get some answers from you. On the call today, we also have two of our Youth Volunteer Association members joining us as interviewers. They are James Han and Granger Wang. Welcome, James and Granger.
James: Hi, thanks for having me.
Officer Ha: Yep, I’ve seen you guys.
Prince: This interview will probably last 45 minutes, depending on how long one question will be. But, let’s get started with the first question. I know that earlier this year the organization called the Office of Community Outreach and Partnership was formed and you are part of that organization. Could you introduce what you do and what is the objective and vision of that OCOP organization?
Officer Ha: Yes, that’s correct. OCOP stands for Office of Community Outreach and Partnership. It was established by chief John Drake when he was made chief in November the 20th of 2020. This unit consists of a captain, his name is Captain Laura; and we have a lieutenant, his name is Lieutenant Beer, but Lieutenant just got promoted, and he’s now a captain who works over at Domestic. Below them we have three sergeants, Sergeant Michelle Coker, Sergeant Derek Keeler, and Sergeant Noble Taylor. We got officers that were selected throughout Metro for their diversity, their community outreach work, and this unit comprised of different officers who have different engagement niches in their community. I am one of them and I am with the Asian community. Our mission statement is to extend the department’s mission to all the communities, including underserved communities. A lot of times the Asian people do not get looked at or patrolled by officers there because of different reasons. The department is to provide community-based police products to the public so they can experience a safe and peaceful Nashville. Also, in carrying out our mission, members of the department will continue to value organizing excellent professionalism, the impartial enforcement of the law, and the people we serve and each other, problem-solving and partnership, open communication, ethics and integrity. I am with the Asian community. Here in Nashville, we have one of the largest Laotian populations, a large and big niche of Chinese, Philippine, Vietnamese, and we also have a group that are the refugees who just came in a couple of years ago, the Burmese. That’s why the chief has established this unit, so the Asian community will have people that look and sound like them that go into their community and bridge the gap between the Asian community and law enforcement.
Prince: Okay, thank you for answering the first question. You gave some great details and information and I appreciate that. So that is followed by the second question I have. Since you are part of the OCOP organization now, could you let us know of your short-term and long-term plans of engaging the Asian communities? How would you serve the Asian communities?
Officer Ha: Right. Now, since it started in November, we had several months, for me anyway, trying to help all the Asian communities. The short-term goal is that I go to all the Asian temples, Asian churches, and Asian businesses to meet with different organizations like the Greater Nashville Chinese Association, The Tennessee Alliance, and those types of organizations. What I try to do is to first establish a good communication, open dialects, and see what’s going on with their community and what type of help that we could do to try to solve issues that they have in their community. My long-term goals, of course, are to develop a good connection and communication and set up Zoom meetings. What I want to do in the long-term is to have more dialogues and more training and teaching of different laws and different rules that could help out their communities. I want to inform them of things to help them protect themselves and let them know what their rights are. A lot of times, the Asian community is very quiet and doesn’t ask much, so what I want to do is to reach out to them, reach out to leaders in the churches, in the temples and associations and let them know there’s a lot of resources that could help them out. Vice versa, you guys could help me and the department out.
Prince: That sounds great, and I think I will be super excited about knowing a more united Asian community by your outreach efforts and partnership efforts.
Officer Ha: Could I add a little more to that?
Prince: Yes, feel free.
Officer Ha: What I want to do is that also, in our department we have a very low number of Asian officers. I could count about 5 or 6 Asian officers in our unit. I am the only Vietnamese-Chinese officer that we have. Unfortunately, I can only speak Vietnamese. My dad can speak Chinese. What I want to do in the long-term is to recruit more Asian people to become police officers, so that way they could help out the community. I’ve been in this unit for 6 months and I’ve noticed that it’s a lot easier when I go to these businesses that are Asian and they see someone like me who speak the same language or look like them, they tend to open up a little bit more. They feel like they can be more trusted because they think “Here is someone who looks like me, who understands what I’m asking.” So the long-term goal is that I want to get more people that look like me and sound like me and speak a lot of different languages-Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Philippine, Burma-to come onboard to the Metro Nashville Police Department and come back and help out their community to serve them.
Prince: That sounds really great as well, because being a liaison between the MNPD and the Asian community is very crucial. If you say you want to recruit more Asian officers that would be very sustainable. Thank you for adding that to the question. Now I would like to turn my mic to James. I know James has a question for the Officer. Feel free to ask it now.
James: Yes, my name is James Han and I go to Merrol Hyde Magnet School. I will be a junior in the fall. One of the questions is about anti-Asian violence. In 2021 and 2020, the news has reported a great deal of it. What’s the situation like in the Greater Nashville area, and what are the top issues?
Officer Ha: James, that’s a great question. With the backlash from the previous president about the Chinese Flu and things like that, people feel like the blame is on the Asian people because of that. However, the number here in Nashville doesn’t really show as far as hate crimes against Asians, and the reason why is that a lot of Asian people underreported down in Nashville. People are not calling in when they are getting verbal abuse or being taunted or experiencing hate towards them. If we would have more Asian people know their rights by calling the police department and know what a hate crime is, we could record that and try to have a better number to understand how it is in Nashville. But unfortunately, we don’t get a lot of calls to the department, so we don’t know the exact number of how many people are actually getting hated on here in Nashville.
James: Do you think that if the MNPD had more Asian officers, more Asian-Americans would feel more comfortable reporting their attacks to the police?
Officer Ha: I agree with you every percent. A lot of times, the Asian elderly here in Nashville only speak one language from where they’re originally from, whether they’re Chinese or Vietnamese. They are less likely to talk to a person that only speaks English because of the communication barrier; and maybe where they’re from, they have a different outlook on officers, but if we had more Asian officers here, they would probably feel a little more comfortable making those reports.
James: What would you say are the greatest issues among Asian-Americans in the Greater-Nashville area as of 2021?
Officer Ha: I have gone into businesses in Nashville and asked them “What’s going on? How can I help you? What’s some of the issues you have?” A lot of times they have a communication issue. When they call the police department for whatever reason they feel they are not getting help from the department because of the communication part. We have a thing now called Language Line which allows the people who don’t speak good English to call that number, and it translates back to the officer so they can get a better recording. That’s one of the things I see the Asian community is having trouble with, which is communication. We’re trying to do better by having more Asian officers, Language Line, and helping out with the smooth transition of communication.
James Han: Do you think that communication issues or fear of reporting their attacks to the police is a bigger cause of crimes going unreported? Which one is bigger?
Officer Ha: That’s a very good question. I do go to these places and a lot of them don’t report crimes too because of what you said. They’re afraid of retaliation, and it’s a lot of different things with the Asian community. Communication, being afraid of retaliation if they report it, and that’s why we need more Asian officers in this department to help out with communication and also helping them when they have issues. We want to try to explain that “We are here to help you.” If they don’t report this, the problem is that the person who did the crime will go to the next business, temple, or church and cause the same issue. If you don’t report stuff, things are going to keep happening more and more.
Prince: Talking about communication, James asked good questions. Thank you again Officer for your answer. I’m thinking about broader communication among all the Asian communities. In times of incidents, that communication can be used to find out “What happened? What’s going to happen?” For example, if something happens to one of the Asian communities, how would protection be ensured to another group? If I was a victim and my situation was shared with the other Asian communities, that would help to prevent this from happening to them in the future.
Officer Ha: That’s a very good thing. With the Asian community, there’s not just one, two, or three peoples. You have multiple, and I can name you about ten off my head. Each different community speaks a different language, but we are all Asian. What I want to do is to reach out to members such as you, Prince, and other organizations. The long-term goal is to get us in the same circle so that if something happens in Metro, I could disperse it to you, and you could disperse it to your community or association. That’s why right now as a short-term goal I want to reach out to as many organizations or top leaders in communities and that way we can get out all the information needed to help the Asian community. When one Asian person gets assaulted, the assaulter doesn’t think they assaulted a Chinese person but instead just an Asian person. That’s why we need better communication and a circle of all the Asian communities together so that when something happens, we could disperse the information to each community. It would also be great if there were more Asian officers so it would be a lot easier. We need other minorities of Asian descent in our unit.
Prince: Okay, so that sounds really like a firm plan we want in the long term. We want every community represented in a circle which will serve as a point of contact. In the center there will be information, which will be distributed to points of contact. The points of contact will distribute that information locally in their community. It will hopefully prevent any danger or threats from happening across Asian communities. Thank you, officer, for answering that. That leads me to think about hate crimes. I would like Granger to ask a question about hate crimes. Granger?
Granger: Hello, my name is Granger Wang. I go to Brentwood High School and I’m a rising senior. Recently, I’ve been wanting to ask you about hate crimes. Around the US, there’s been a spike in hate crimes, and I was just wondering if that was the case in Tennessee because in my state of Tennessee, everyone is extremely nice to me, and I didn’t really experience anything. I wanted to know if there were cases of attacks in other places in Tennessee.
Officer Ha: Right. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not saying that it’s not happening, I’m just saying that it’s not been reported. I know a couple occasions where somebody made a derogatory racist comment to people, but as far as physical attacks, if it is happening, it has not been reported. What I’m trying to do is to hit some of the communities through churches and associations and let them know that those things need to be reported. Just like James said earlier, I think a lot of times the Asian community aren’t reporting it because they’re afraid of retaliation. Or they may not report it because they think there’s nothing that can be done, or they don’t want to be retaliated against. Attacks are happening throughout the United States, and there have been a lot of incidents such as an incident in California where an Asian got run over and killed because of their race, an incident in New York, and the big attack down in Atlanta recently. It is happening down in the bigger cities, but the thing is that Nashville is becoming a big city. That’s why we need to have more representation within the department so we can help out more of the Asian community here in Nashville or in Tennessee.
Granger: COVID-19 has affected a lot of people. Have there been changes in your training or meetings for the police and how you deal with crime?
Officer Ha: It has changed a lot. It has also changed for good because with COVID, we now do everything meeting-wise with Zoom and other media outreach things. I’m still an old-school kind of person. I miss cultural events we’ve had because I think they’re big things for the Asian community. I’m from a large family and we like to celebrate, get together and have parties and functions. Emotion-wise, I’d rather be around different people personally, meet and talk to them, and do different things but as far as work goes. With COVID, we have a lot of domestic violence, especially with the Burmese, because both the husband and wife stay home, and different issues and problems arise with arguments about money. COVID has affected a lot of things like that. COVID also has a social impact, as it hurts students too because I know you kids would rather be at school seeing and hanging out with your friends and sometimes having your mask off. Hopefully, next year you guys will have more in-person school versus virtual classes because I know my daughter will be going to Brentwood High School next year and hopefully there will be more opening up when she goes to class because she did miss her friends when she went to Brentwood Middle School.
Granger: Thanks. So I was wondering since with 2020 and COVID, have crime rates gone up, remained the same, or gone down. Which form of crime has increased and which has decreased?
Officer Ha: That’s a good question. So, with COVID, domestic issues have gone up because there are more people at home with kids at home, and things happen when people are stuck together. Brothers fight brothers and parents get in arguments for different reasons such as finances. What has decreased is traffic accidents because with COVID, not a lot of people are going out so there is not much traffic. Now with things opening up though, traffic has increased because more people are going to work and out and about. Those are the things I can think of right now.
Granger: Thank you. One last question to finish it up is if you were to say anything and the entire Nashville community could hear you say it and take it in, what would you say to them?
Officer Ha: Well, what I would say is that COVID is about to end and it is 2021 with everything going to be back open again. We’re going to have a cultural festival downtown in Centennial and hopefully I’ll see everybody there. I hope to see everybody eating, drinking, and having a good time. 2020 and some of 2021 have not been the greatest because we’ve been stuck at home with different issues such as being at home and not being able to see people. To Asian people, it’s all about celebration-celebrating their culture and their family-and I think that’s what I miss. I hope that 2021 and 2022 will open back up again and I’ll see everybody in person and just have a good time.
Granger: Thank you so much, and I think it is James’ or Prince Huang’s turn so I will transition to them and thank you so much for answering my questions.
Officer Ha: Thank you Granger, you did great.
Prince: Thank you Granger for leading on those questions, I think those are some very smart and valuable answers from Officer Ha to everybody who will listen to this dialogue later. And I know that James has another practical hands-on self-defense technique question for Officer.
James: I do have that question. So Officer Ha, could you recommend some self-protection techniques and strategies for Asians to stay safe? With 2020 and 2021, many Asian-Americans have been the victims of hate crimes. Asian-Americans have been beaten, spit on, and insulted, with many people blaming them for COVID-19. Could you recommend some self-protection and defense techniques for Asians to stay safe?
Officer Ha: Right. The elderly are the most vulnerable because they appear to be weak to some people, so what I suggest is that if you have parents or grandparents, go with them. Go in numbers. If they need to go to the grocery store, have somebody go with them. I know you can’t do that all the time, but if you have someone with them help them out. Numbers are key when it comes to safety. When you go by yourself, you’re more likely to be attacked. If you’re by yourself, there are different things Asians can do. Of course, you can take self-defense classes and learn how to defend yourself. If you’re a female, take things like pepper spray you could use. Now in Tennessee, there is something for adults called the permitless carry on. For the adults that are able to carry, they need to go take classes. Learn how to carry your gun properly and learn how to use it because it’s not good if you have it but don’t know how to use it. Make sure you learn about all the laws though. Know when you can use it and when not you can use it because you can’t just pull your gun on someone if they’re yelling at you. You need to be in a situation in which you think you are at risk of death or bodily harm. That’s the only time you can use a weapon here in Tennessee. Know your law, know how to use it, take a class, and protect yourself and your family that way. But it’s also important if you do go the route of having a handgun that you make sure you keep it safe. Right now, we have a large number of stolen guns in vehicles here in Nashville. I think the number now is at 532 to be exact. It’s important that if your parents or anybody are carrying guns or carrying guns now to be sure they do not leave it in a car when they go anywhere or leave the gun in a car when they’re at home. Take that gun and secure it-do not leave it in a car. Also, if they have it at home, make sure they store it in a proper place like a safe with a lock on it. Recently, we had a 5-year old kid in Goodlettsville get ahold of their parents’ gun and shoot themself by accident. It got them killed. Some of these tools can help keep you safe, but we also have to be responsible when we use these tools.
James: If you’re an able-bodied adult and you’re skilled both in firearms and self-defense classes, which one would you say is better for defending yourself-a firearm or self-defense such as martial arts which doesn’t involve firearms or knives?
Officer Ha: I think it depends on the person. Oftentimes what I suggest is that people need to avoid the situation if you can. Often people will egg you, get on you and try to provoke you, call you names and stuff like that. If you cannot avoid the situation and can’t ask for help, then by all means defend yourself and your family. If you’re trained in martial arts and have pepper spray or a handgun, know how to use it properly and make sure you understand your rights and what the law is when you use these things. You can’t just pull out a gun and start shooting people because you think they did something. Make sure you know the law exactly when it comes to using firearms or any type of deadly force. Even with brass knuckles, if you use them in a way where you hit someone from behind and knock them out and they die from that, you or someone you know may be charged for the death of that person. So like I said, take classes, know the law, and learn what you need to do to protect yourself in a proper way. That’s why we need to have training and classes to teach the Asian community what you need to do to protect yourself in the right way. Knowing is just half the battle. I think that’s what was said in a movie. You have to know what you need to do, have the proper equipment, and then I think that will help you be safe.
James: Another question of mine is are there certain areas in the Nashville area you should try to avoid and certain times of day you should try not to be outside?
Officer Ha: That’s a good question. In Nashville we have something called Crime Mapping, and you can go on there and check to see where all the crimes are occurring here in Davidson County, and if you see those areas which have a lot of robberies and shootings and assaults, I would say probably avoid those areas. Not a lot of good things happen after midnight. A lot of times you might not need to be outside during that period of time. The thing is just because you live in a gated community doesn’t mean your community is safe. Anything can happen anywhere. You just need to be prepared and be alert at all times. So just be alert and prepare of any location here in Nashville. If you really want to know where the crime is, you can look up the crime map of the local MNPD. It can show you all the areas where there are burglaries, robbers, major crimes, and even death too. That can help you answer that question.
James: Thank you for answering my questions Officer Ha.
Prince: Both of you asked really good questions. Here is my last question. Since both of our interviewers are considered Asian youth and next generation, what might be your suggestion on how the Asian youth population can help enhance community safety with the Metro.
Officer Ha: Oh absolutely. The Asian community’s youth is our future. They’re going to be doctors, lawyers, and they have all these different technologies that they use now. They have all this social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and all these things that they see and learn. They have a lot of knowledge that we could use by just listening to them. A lot of things I get are from the youth telling me what’s the latest greatest fad or what’s going on. The youth is the key of what Nashville’s going to be. James and Granger, you can tell they’re really smart kids. They ask excellent questions and that’s what they need to do. They can help the Asian community by continuing to do that-asking these questions so that way in turn they can take that back and help out their own community on how to solve things like asking questions to me like that so they could bring it back.
Prince: Great. I think that’s the benefit of involving the youth in this session and once again I think we are right on time. We again very much appreciate all the answers from Metro’s standpoint from you, Officer, and also I would like to extend my appreciation to both the youth volunteers here, Granger and James here, for joining me and joining us. We will publish this session on GNCA official YouTube account, and I look forward to reviewing the entire session and benefiting the entire community. Thank you again for joining me.
Official Ha: I’d like to thank Prince for setting this up and I’d like to thank James and Granger. Excellent questions, I have no doubt that you two are going to be somebody big one day. You all have a great bright future ahead so good luck with everything, and I want to do this more often because just hearing the perspective from the youth-It was different when I was younger because now they are a different generation, they have sharp minds and they got good ideas-that’s what we need. Thank you.
Prince: Yep. GNCA will definitely arrange future sessions with Metro to get more training sessions and knowledge sharing sessions-maybe community safety enhancement sessions as well. We can improve our community safety together.