Columbus, GA: A long-running Citizen Police Academy program has launched a new initiative to recruit local congregational clergy in an effort to improve understanding and relations between law enforcement agencies and the communities in which they operate.
One of the most important things city leaders hope will come out of the class will be communication and understanding between the police and the pastors, and by extension, their congregations, [Police Chief Ricky] Boren said.
“We want them to know the professionalism of this agency, how we do business on a daily basis, we want them to know what they need to do if they need our help,” Boren said. “Each one of them has a congregation. Each one of them can go back to them and train them that this is a professional agency and that we’re their friends.”
Eighteen local clergy members have signed up for the first class. The Revd Grace Burton-Edwards, Rector of St Thomas Episcopal Church, told the Ledger-Enquirer
“I’m here to learn about our police department, but also to learn more about our community, what [are] some of the needs and challenges that face the community, so our congregation, like yours, can be part of some solutions.”
Teresa Tomlinson, Mayor of Columbus, hopes that the pastors can help build bridges between the community and its police force before a crisis occurs.
“We definitely want to be involved on the front end of what you see going on around the country. When these horrific, unexpected perhaps completely unpredictable events come up, the community is thrown into turmoil,” Tomlinson said. “It’s too late to try to create relationships at that point. You’re damage control at that point. This is going to be very important in that regard.”