Faith community & police partnership evolves | News
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT)- Richmond Police teaming with the faith community to provide services is a proven successful partnership. Just this week the program took on a life of its own when faith leaders responded to a homicide on Barton Avenue.
Police Chief Bryan Norwood told NBC12 that response from faith leaders, without a direct invitation, is an exciting piece of the puzzle in terms of fighting crime in the city. He called it an evolution of this partnership, which was started almost two years ago.
When police found Antoine Saunders shot to death on the sidewalk in broad daylight Tuesday, Pastor Alex Boyd and a handful of faith leaders also rushed to the north side scene to see if they could help Saunders' family and the community cope.
"It's a tragedy," Pastor Boyd told us. "It's sad that the cream of our crop, our young men especially, are dying on the streets like this."
Police Chief Bryan Norwood told us Thursday, they've been talking about this kind of response for quite some time.
"The sense of urgency from the pastors that showed up and the sense of relief from the community who sought some interaction with those pastors was integral," he said.
It is a special kind of interaction.
"They bring a different level of relief to folks," Norwood explained. "A uniform prohibits us from having a certain interaction with people. The faith leaders can bridge that gap and do so in a way that calms the neighborhood."
Initially, the Richmond Police Department focused its efforts where it said the need was the greatest. Faith "walk-thrus" bring employment opportunities, school supplies, health screenings, literacy programs and familiarity to the city's courts.
"We're really investing in our trust account," Chief Norwood said.
He also believes sometimes residents feel more comfortable talking to faith leaders about patrol needs. By doing that, the message gets passed along to police.
Now, the partners will revisit the courts and also expand to other neighborhoods in need.
"Every other institution has had a shot, right," Pastor Boyd asked. "So now it's time for the church to step up and reach these young people before these tragedies happen."
If your faith organization wants to partner police or if you'd like them to visit your neighborhood, Chief Norwood said they're accepting all faiths and all requests. Just contact headquarters.
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