BALTIMORE (WJZ) — From handcuffs to a helping hand. It’s a direction Baltimore Police are trying with the help of neighborhood clergy.
As Alex DeMetrick explains, it’s not so much policing from the pulpit as it is finding an ally.
Police have a way of filling a neighborhood and making an impact. At this stage, it’s almost always in response to crime, but response doesn’t always leave the best impression.
“I grew up in Baltimore City and there’s always been some mistrust between the people within the city and the police department,” said Rev. Nathaniel Green of Violetville United Methodist.
But one force that does have trust are community churches, mosques and synagogues.
“They’re the pieces that keep families together. They’re the pieces that bring communities together,” said Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts.
And it’s where Baltimore Police are turning for help. The department is asking clergy throughout the city to bring officers into their congregations and communities, to find ways of diffusing situations before the need for handcuffs.
“They have arresting authority, but their function becomes to make sure that we intervene, connect and promote the health, welfare and well-being of our communities,” said Rev. Todd Yeary of Douglas Memorial Community Church.
This concept is targeting neighborhoods where relations with police are not the best.
“Right now, in different parts of our community, they just, basically, don’t like us. We don’t have the credibility. We don’t have respect, and we have to start making those grounds to improve those things,” said Batts.
The department wants to reduce crime, even if it takes heavenly help to improve its street cred.
Batts said similar efforts to build community support helped reduce violent crime in his previous job as top cop in Oakland, Calif.