There are two professions that provide a window to people’s lives at their most vulnerable, their most exposed moments: the clergy and law enforcement. Both jobs are more than just jobs; for the men and women who wear the collar or don the badge each day, it’s a calling, a vocation, a chance to serve.
Combine the two, and you get something that resembles the program the Danville Police Department is trying to get started that gives members of the clergy the chance to go on “enhanced ride-alongs” with police officers. Lt. Richard Chivvis got the idea from the Norfolk Police Department as a way of helping officers interact with the public.
The Norfolk program began a while back and now includes more than 20 members of the clergy who accompany police officers on their weekend rounds. According to the Norfolk department, it’s a chance for the clergy, who are in their communities each and every day, to assist officers in building two-way bridges with residents. They’re bridges of trust and respect built on familiarity and becoming a part of the community the officers are sworn to serve and protect.
Indeed, the FBI awarded the co-founders of the Norfolk initiative with a community leadership award earlier this year for the work they did in organizing the clergy-ride-along program.
Locally, Chivvis has reached out to churches and the local synagogue and mosque to take part in the program. “The pastors, the clergy members, they are stakeholders certainly in the community. They tend to be connected to the community,” Chivvis told the Register & Bee. “We believe that they are going to help us further our mission of engagement with the community by helping us bridge the gap between us and some of the communities that need us the most.”
Quite often, when tragedy strikes a community, among the first on the scene, along with police and EMS providers, are local clergy. Providing on-the-spot counseling and spiritual sustenance for the traumatized, they also likely know those involved and can be an emotional support for them as law enforcement officers go about their crime-scene duties.
Like the Norfolk “Clergy Patrol,” Chivvis envisions the Danville program would take place between set hours on the weekends. In Norfolk, clergy ride with officers Friday and Saturday nights between 8 and midnight. “When you consider the line of work that we do and the type of calls that we respond to day in and day out, a lot of times the people are a victim, it’s their worst day,” Norfolk Chief Larry Boone told TV station WTKR. “They may have these preconceived notions about the police and when they see the clergy patrol they may settle down.”
It’s that same trust-building initiative Chivvis and other DPD leaders hope to replicate here.
“To serve and protect” is the primary job of law enforcement, but in so many communities what’s lacking is two-way “trust and respect.” Not here, though. When the Danville “Clergy Patrol” gets up and running, we hope and believe it will be the start of a formal partnership between the men and women in these two vitally important vocations, a partnership that will help Danville residents for years to come.