MONTGOMERY — A police department in Alabama has been working in recent months to train area pastors to work beside them in the police force, both as a way to reach out to the hurting and to fight back against crime in the city.
This past summer, the Montgomery Police Department launched Operation Good Shepherd in response to the city’s high homicide rate, as Montgomery fears being on the path to becoming one of the most violent cities per capita in America. According to WSFA, the outreach program was modeled after the Police and Clergy Working Together (PACT) program in Dayton, Ohio.
“[F]aith leaders attend weekly classes in which police teach them ways they can discourage crime and show them exactly what’s happening in their communities,” the outlet explained.
Pastors will accompany police at crime scenes, as well counsel and pray with those present, and will attend monthly meetings to discuss areas of concern in regard to criminal activity in the city. Police training includes gang awareness and how to spot illegal drug activity.
Nearly 40 area clergy have completed the training, which were all recognized during a recent ceremony at Montgomery City Hall. Police chief Kevin Murphy issued diplomas to the pastors as their names were called.
“They’re going to make a difference, and they’re going to help everyone in their time of need see that change can be made,” Corporal David Hicks told those gathered.
Corporal Theodore Williams, the project coordinator, concurred.
“I am so glad to have this moment finally come,” he stated to reporters with the Montgomery Adviser at the event. “I am so glad that they are able to go out and help people in their time of need. … This is good for the city of Montgomery.”
According to The Atlantic, popular radio preacher Billy Holder also addressed the audience, explaining that the youth in Montgomery need examples of how to live with standards and morals. He shared a story about how he had watched a documentary where an older elephant was able to tame the young, unruly elephants through his example and care.
“Once the older elephant was introduced to the pack, the younger elephants had somebody to look up to,” Irvin told the crowd. “They had someone to guide them. And that’s what our youth needs: someone to guide them. Without that, how will they know about moral structure?”
Hicks recently appeared on Holder’s program to explain Operation Good Shepherd and its goals.
“What we want to do is combine the religious community and the Montgomery Police Department and we want to unite those as one,” he stated.
However, Montgomery police chaplain E. Baxter Morris stated that the opportunity can also be viewed as a means to evangelize the lost in the community.
“There is an evangelistic advantage,” he stated. “That is, that once I float to your comfort zone, and we become one in our crisis, I determine what your spiritual needs may or may not be, and I may be able to share with you a word from Christ.”
“The faith community is the community that’s really the heart of any community,” Roosevelt Crawford of Bethlehem Temple Church told reporters. “And the churches need to be connected with the community.”