A coalition of law enforcement groups on Tuesday announced the creation of a National Faith and Blue Weekend to connect police with members of the faith-based community.
The event, which the groups hailed as the “largest police-community engagement in history” and which will be held nationwide Oct. 9-12, will aim to repair the damaged relationships between police officers and communities, especially those with large minority populations.
Activities will be organized through a partnership between law enforcement officials and local faith-based organizations. Scheduled activities include town halls, unity walks, vigils and athletic competitions designed to “foster an environment of problem-solving, resolution and reconciliation,” event leaders said.
“I think a real challenge in America today is that officers, citizens and residents of certain communities don’t know each other on a human level,” said the Rev. Markel Hutchins, a civil rights leader and one of the organizers. “Until law enforcement professionals and citizens of local communities get to know each other behind the badge and gun, we will continue to see the kind of divisive rhetoric we’ve seen across the country.”
Tensions between police and minority communities are at its highest levels in years. Mass protests and anti-police violence have erupted across the country following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.
Floyd’s death was followed by outrage over police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shooting Jacob Blake, a Black man, seven times in the back last month.
More than 300 people face federal charges since the protests began.
Michael Chapman, vice president of the Major County Sheriffs of America, said the faith community can help build bridges between communities and law enforcement.
“The intersection of faith and law enforcement has never been more important than it is today,” he said. “It is very important that people understand what we do and how we do our job. That is really where the faith-based community can come in. They can help with outreach and messaging.”
Some of the law enforcement agencies participating in the event include the National Fraternal Order of Police, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, and the National Black Police Association.
Officials from the Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department attended a press conference Tuesday in Washington to lend their support for the event.
D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said his department will participate.
“Faith leaders serve as a trusted adviser to many in the community and can positively influence neighborhoods,” he said. “The idea to hold a National Faith and Blue Weekend is brilliant. Simple and brilliant.”