David Harper knows that police officers are vital to the community’s safety. He also knows that there are some who aren’t aware of everything law enforcement does or are a bit mistrustful of officers.
So the pastor at Hollywood Baptist Church has signed up for a unique local program that will give him (and other local pastors) the chance to learn first-hand about the inner workings of the Rome Police Department.
Then he hopes to use that knowledge to better serve his congregation and the community at large.
The eight-week program, called Police Pastoral Academy, is open to any local pastor and will feature a wide range of classroom and interactive instruction.
“The program is tailored toward pastors,” said PFC Don Davis, assistant training coordinator with the Rome Police Department and co-organizer of the Pastoral Police Academy along with Captain Rusty Blair. “It allows pastors to come and see the internal workings of the police department and the everyday life of a police officer.”
Davis said the goal is for pastors to take what they’ve learned and share that with the community so that together they can build a foundation of mutual respect, trust and understanding.
“We hope we can show them just what the reality is of what policing is like in 2018,” he said. “They’ll get an insight on what we do and how we do it.”
Harper said when he was contacted about participating in the program, he jumped at the opportunity.
“When Rusty (Blair) called me, I thought it was a great idea,” he said. “We pastors speak to hundreds of people every week. I personally have several police officers in my congregation and I’m hoping a program like this can give me an insight into their lives and how better to minister to them and their families. And in a larger sense we can potentially reach thousands of people all over the community by doing this.”
Davis said the program is not an offer of employment. It’s simply a volunteer program to educate pastors on the inner workings of the police department.
Over the course of the program, participants will learn about the criminal investigation division, traffic enforcement, specialized units, use of force/firearms training and crime prevention.
“They’ll learn about patrol, traffic, SWAT, detective work and they’ll be encouraged to ride along with officers at night and during the day,” Davis said. “We want them to get a sense of every aspect of our jobs.”
Davis emphasized that one of the points the program will try to focus on is that the police need the community and the community needs the police.
“One can’t be successful without the other,” he said. “We police at the consent of the community. So we’d like people to know what we do and why we do it. We’re trying to build a relationship and trust within the community.”
Any local pastor interested in the Pastoral Police Academy can download and complete an application form at www.romefloyd.com/departments/citizens-police-academy, they can stop by the Rome Police Training Center 2626 Callier Springs Road, or they can call the training staff at 706-236-2399. The program will be conducted at the training center there on Callier Springs Road.
The Pastoral Police Academy will begin Aug. 6 and participants will meet every Monday evening from 6-8 p.m. for eight weeks.
“Pastors have a strong voice in our community,” Davis said. “We see this program as a way of reaching people through a channel that they trust. We want people in Rome and Floyd County to know that police officers care. We care about the job we do and we care that the public knows what we’re doing. This is one way of telling and showing them just what we’re all about.”