For the first time, the San Diego Police Department will partner with local clergy members in the hopes of improving relationships with its communities.
The San Diego Community Clergy Response Team (SDCCRT) would put qualified clergy members in police cars as officers patrol the city.
“A lot of police officers come straight from the academy and have never been placed in an environment with races other than what they are, so they have no idea of their gestures, how they talk,” said Pastor William Benson with the Total Deliverance Worship Center in Spring Valley.
Clergy would volunteer at least 10 hours per month to ride with patrol officers.
The program would start in SDPD’s southeastern division, with the goal of later expanding it to the entire city.
“[Clergy] could be used in a variety of ways,” SDPD Acting Lt. Carmelin Rivera said. “It could be to the individuals that we've stopped. Often times, it's community members who are not involved, at least directly with the incident, that approach us with concerns. And we don't want to turn those people away. We want to hear what their concerns are.”
Clergy and police are working together to come up with a training class that they would attend together.
“I don't think it's ever enough when you're talking about community policing. We’re always looking to improve and do better,” Carmelin told NBC 7.
The effectiveness of the initiative will include measuring the crime rate, but its ultimate success will come with something much more complex – the communities’ relationships.
Those interested in partnering with SDPD to help the community are able to apply to volunteer on its website.
Qualifications include having a master’s degree from an accredited graduate institution or five years of missionary field work.