Alabama PD Enlists Pastors' Help to Fight Crime

June 4, 2013
A new Montgomery Police Department initiative enlists the help of clergy in crime-fighting.

Area ministers seem to agree in principle with the idea of a new Montgomery Police Department initiative to enlist the help of clergy in crime-fighting.

The idea is to get pastors into the streets, reaching out to people who never set foot in church in hopes of reducing the violence that has been plaguing Montgomery.

The Rev. Claude Schuford, pastor of Mount Zion AME Zion Church on West Jeff Davis Avenue, said he has responded to crime scenes before, so that is nothing new to him.

"It's a good concept. People are people, and if they are hurting, the church is going to respond," Schuford said, adding that he did not yet know much about the initiative.

He and other pastors will get a chance to find out more about it at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, when police will present their plan during a meeting at the Gateway Park Lodge.

Through Operation Good Shepherd, participating clergy members will attend four training sessions, a patrol ride-along and a graduation.

After completing the training, pastors will hit the streets, responding to crime scenes with police.

The initiative is modeled after one in Dayton, Ohio, called Police and Clergy Together.

Schuford said he would attend the meeting and find out what exactly the initiative entails.

Eric Thornton, pulpit minister at Holt Street Church of Christ, said he also would attend the meeting and said that he supports the idea of the initiative.

"I'm always for something that is going to be beneficial to the community," Thornton said.

Earnest Blackshear, a psychology professor at Alabama State University, will be helping the police department train the clergy members.

Blackshear said he will help the pastors better understand the mindset of the people involved in much of the city's crime.

"I'll be training clergy in the code of the streets," he said.

He will talk to the pastors about children growing up with no moral code and caring nothing about their future or anything else.

"These individuals have a very nihilistic attitude in life," he said.

Blackshear will cover the psychological approach to people living in those situations, while the MPD will teach the clergy about police techniques.

Clergy members do not have to look far for an example of someone who went out of his way to help those who needed it most, Blackshear said.

"Jesus was an excellent model for going out and feeding the hungry," Blackshear said.

Copyright 2013 - Montgomery Advertiser, Ala.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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