Faith and Blue Weekend festivities look to build stronger bonds with law enforcement
A community outreach event took place Saturday at the City of Cartersville’s Public Safety Headquarters building as part of the national 2020 Faith and Blue Weekend festivities.
“Faith communities and police departments are coming together and working together just to have some fellowship time and get to know one another,” said The Rev. John Lampley, pastor at Cartersville’s Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church.
Among other activities, members of the Cartersville Police Department (CPD) and residents alike feasted on hamburgers and challenged one another to friendly games of cornhole — the popular tailgating pastime where competitors toss bean bags and angle for a hole-in-one a'la golf.
Such events are crucial community-building tools, said Cartersville Chief of Police Frank McCann.
“We need to be doing it all the time, not when things don’t go right,” he said. “We get to know one another, exchange phone numbers, talk with one another — so it’s very important.”
Lampley said he believes the community — as a whole — can depend on the local police department.
“I think we have a very transparent police department led by a transparent chief,” he said. “They work well in the community, has a presence all over the city.”
McCann said such events are just one of many community outreach programs and initiatives employed by the CPD. He brought up the department’s Youth Against Violence and Drugs program as another example.
“Basically, it’s like a civics course for kids that get in trouble,” he said. “For instance, if they catch a case, they can go through that program and the case will be dismissed — like a marijuana case or some misdemeanor case.”
The program, he said, isn’t just meant to educate youths on the fundamentals of law enforcement — such as how traffic stops are conducted — but to also teach them basic life skills.
“The problem is, right now, we are not doing that because of the COVID situation,” he said. “As soon as we get that straight, we’re going to start it up again.”
Lampley said he believes that churches can serve a pivotal role in bridging the gaps between law enforcement and the local community.
“The faith community is well-invested,” he said. “These groups — as they are bridges in our community — it also opens up a lot of communication … to help with some of the things that we see.”
And having that open line of communication, Lampley said, can go a long way in heading things off whenever points of contention may arise in the community.
Public outreach events like the one held over the weekend, McCann said, are just as important for the CPD as it is the local community.
“You meet new people and you get to talk to people,” he said. “And you get to let them know how we do our business.”
And on the other side of the equation, Lampley said such events give residents an opportunity to see the “humanity” and “humanitarian efforts” of local law enforcement officials.
“Law enforcement is their job, but they’re still fathers, they’re still mothers, they’re still uncles, grandfathers,” he said. “So being able to see some of the officers out here with their kids, it’s helpful, because you know this officer has a family, this officer is a person, not just the police.”
The Cartersville Police Department, McCann said, is open to working with not just Cartersville’s faith-based communities, but any local organizations looking to build stronger ties between police and residents.
“If there’s ever an issue with us, call me and we’ll look at it together,” he said. “We’re people, we make mistakes like everybody else — but the deal is we’ll admit to making a mistake if we did.”