Building Trust Between the Police and the People: A Community Initiative

Photograph by: Ana Barajas The Town of Cicero

Photograph by: Ana Barajas
The Town of Cicero in communion: Police Department, church leaders, and residents.

Lately, police-community relationships have been deteriorating and racial propaganda has further deconstructed the trust between the police and the community across our nation, which is horrific because these relationships are necessary.

Why is it necessary to rebuilt trust between the people and the police?

It is important because we need strong communities and without these relationships, tension builds between the two parties causing unsafe communities. When crimes occur and the people do not trust the local police, people are less likely to cooperate in solving a crime, thus allowing for more crime to develop in that community.

How do we eliminate mistrust between the community and the local police?

Chaplain Ismael Vargas from the a Town of Cicero said the following, “I believe the main components needed to develop trust between the local police department and the people is communication and relationship. The police department must have an open door policy in which people feel comfortable to share information and to give opinions on situations that may occur in their community. Communication can be developed by having open discussions with police and community members (at the same table) about how and in what areas they can work together, rather than criticizing one another. Relationships can be further build by bringing the community church leaders to this discussion table. The one place we see many of our community members congregate is in the church. Key church leaders need to work hand-in-hand with the police department to help voice the people’s needs. In this way, both the police and the people can hold themselves accountable and responsible for any changes that might occur within their community.The people and the local police department must come to one accord understanding that united they can make a difference and change their community. If [the church] takes these steps, we can become a bridge between the police and the people, where trust will always be first.”

The Community of Milwaukee cooperating together cleaning their streets: Police Department, Church Members, and residents.

The Community of Milwaukee cooperating together to clean the streets in their neighborhoods: Police Department, church leaders, and residents.

Chaplain Vargas has worked to implement this model in the community of Cicero for many years. His statement comes to life in stories like the one I witness while working with Cease Fire in Cicero.

After a young man and his girlfriend were shot and killed back in December 2012, government officials, local police officers, Cease Fire, and church leaders gathered to embrace the families of the deceased. I remember church members prayed to bring healing to the families while they grieved with them. The families were also presented with food and Christmas gifts for the children. I remember the words of the families, who expressed deep gratitude to all of us present, they said they had never been a part of a community so bonded together with love who included government officials, church members, and police officers, like the community of Cicero, Illinois.

Another community that has implemented a similar model is the community of Milwaukee in the state of Wisconsin through the efforts of former police officer Richard Schwoegler, who is now a Pastor and Chaplain in his beloved community.

The vision of the Community-Police Outreach Initiative is the revitalization of their city through the demonstration of Christ’s love. Chaplain Schwoegler emphasized the importance to build a community of resilient people that are capable of embracing inclusion where neighbors can value each other regardless of their differences.

Their mission is to bring together faith based groups of all beliefs, community organizations, governmental agencies, and the local police department to build relationships and empower people to solve root problems by addressing immediate and long term needs. Some of these needs mentioned include hunger relief, addressing homelessness, medical care, mental health, education, and to increase economic prosperity along with spiritual growth, thus strengthening individuals and the entire community.

Milwaukee Police interacting with the community.

Milwaukee Police interacting with the youth; building trust.

Chaplain Schwoegler concluded that, “by building these relationships that include different entities in the community, we are showing the people our love for them, which tears down all walls, prejudice, and allows people to see each other as individuals. When we work together for a common cause as in the Community-Police Outreach Initiative, we will change people’s lives, [thus building trust].”

In short, to help develop trust between the police and the residents of a community we need the support of government officials, community leaders from all branches including: non-profit organizations (like Cease Fire), activists, and especially church leaders.

Furthermore, communities like the Town of Cicero and Milwaukee are integrated communities where government officials support initiatives that help build trust between the police and the people. There are also intermediate people who work as a bridge between the community and the police. These people include church leaders like Chaplain Vargas and Chaplain Schweogler.

May I add that while not all participants in such initiatives are Christians, many are, which leads me to say the following: without men and women of God (who live in truth by the Spirit), we cannot lead others in communion and trust. It takes people of honor and fear of the Lord to develop such models. When a community is composed with leaders who love the Lord, the rest of the people will follow, not always out of agreement with these ideals, but because it is the social norm established by respectable leaders who carry the name of Christ.

Lastly, although it is true that racism is very real, let’s not fall into the propaganda of racism which is dividing our communities. Remember that love casts out all fears and pardons all wrongs. Be ready to discern when you should turn the other cheek or to stand up for your rights, but always in truth and in love through peace.

Milwaukee Police helping children take off their cloves after a day of picking trash off the streets.

Milwaukee Police helping children take off their cloves after a day of picking trash off the streets.

Let’s have higher standards. Believers in Christ, fulfill your duty and calling by establishing norms that are Biblical by engaging in your communities and becoming the bridge between the people and government officials, including policemen and women. Altogether, non-believers are invited to be a part of these initiatives by engaging in building trust with community leaders, not only because you are needed, but also because you might find a calling higher than what you currently know. We must work together to restore the respect and trust police officers and the people once held dear to.

How do we begin?

Chaplain Ismael Vargas quoted Andy Stanley by saying, “When God initiated His relationship with mankind it did not begin with a command, it began with an invitation, Will you trust me?”

For more information on how to start this initiative in your community please contact either of the chaplians:

Chaplain Richard Schweogler 

(262) 227-1987

Chaplain Ismael Vargas
(708) 307-2266

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