Saturday, September 22, 2001

Officers to worship at black churches

Sunday's events will be repeated periodically

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati police officers will worship with congregations at more than a dozen black churches throughout the city this weekend in hopes of improving strained police-community relations.

        Officers will attend services Sunday at churches in the neighborhoods they routinely patrol, and periodically thereafter.

        The goal of the initiative, led by Cincinnati Community Action Now (CAN), is to allow police and community members to get to know one another on a different level.

        “Oftentimes clergy do drive-alongs with police to get a good understanding for what they do. We feel it is equally important for officers to worship with the faith community to get an idea of how we operate,” said the Rev. Damon Lynch III, CAN co-chairman.

        “The more we understand each other and the worlds in which we operate, the more we begin to see each other as humans.”

        Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken, who formed CAN in May, applauded the partnership, saying it will promote understanding and unity between two very important groups.

        “Some people say we are most segregated on Sunday,” Mr. Luken said. “Whether that is true or not, I don't know. But what I do know is that whenever I go to worship with someone else's congregation, there is a warmth and understanding that comes from it that you don't see anywhere else. It's a great way to come together.”

        The teaming of police and church leaders is the first of several initiatives to be launched in the coming weeks by CAN's police and justice-system action team, CAN officials said Friday.

        The team, made up of police, religious and grass-roots leaders, has been meeting weekly since May to devise strategies on repairing police-community relations and eliminating inequities in the criminal justice system.

        Cincinnati CAN was formed following days of civil unrest triggered by the April 7 shooting death of 19-year-old Timothy Thomas by a Cincinnati police officer. The race commission is charged with developing policies and programs to help people in need.

        “It's a fascinating idea to me,” said Chief Tom Streicher. “I think it's a tremendous approach.”

        The Rev. Dr. Ronald Mabry, pastor of Greater Liberty Baptist Church in Madisonville, said he is looking forward to worshiping with Cincinnati police.

        He said some churches are even planning to hold receptions after morning services so that church members and police can interact.

        “I personally believe this is going to show the community that clergy and police are moving forward in building partnerships and that we are serious about turning our city into the model we've been talking about for such a long time,” the Rev. Mr. Mabry said.


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