Cops working a different beat

Pastoral Messages | July 15, 2021

Three uniformed police officers were at church last night for a couple of hours. No onsite crime was in progress. Nobody was hurt. There was no break-in. These officers were on hand to provide commentary following the showing of a documentary film: Ernie and Joe: Crisis Cops, a film that came our way courtesy of St. Paul’s Mental Health Awareness Team.

Several impressions come to mind from last evening. First, I think of the dedication of these officers in their work as part of the Community Impact Team (CIT) for the Davenport Police Department. While they always have to be available for emergency calls and crises, they focus on community involvement, neighborhood engagement, and relationship building. It’s all part of an effort to strengthen neighborhoods, serve people, and reduce crime in the process. 

My second impression is that everyone present for the documentary witnessed what can happen when a police department like the one featured in the film (San Antonio, Texas) has ample resources for working meaningfully with mentally ill people. Joe and Ernie, the two featured cops, have the luxury of working with a whole department of police colleagues who collaborate daily with mental health professionals. It’s amazing what happens when officers with sensitivity training – a national program called Crisis Intervention Training (C.I.T.) – are entrusted with the cares and burdens of people whose disordered brain besets them with a frightening darkness. Joe and Ernie make clear that it’s their privilege to try and walk someone back from jumping off a highway overpass, not their duty to criminalize an act undeserving of jail.

Third, listening in on the conversation after the film reinforced in my mind the need for local police departments like our own to receive not less funding but rather additional funding for being able to provide non-uniformed officers in neighborhoods alongside teams of professionals who are ready to serve mentally ill populations in helpful ways.  

Finally, last evening’s event brought to mind all over again the plight of so many on America’s streets and, frankly, in American churches just like ours – people whose mental pains and burdens so overwhelm that they gradually enter a land of deep despair and isolation. My own brother, who was bright, charismatic, and talented before a paranoid schizophrenic switch flipped in his brain some 40 years ago, lives an unrecognizable life to anyone who knew him in childhood. I think of Jeff on most days. My prayer for him on many of those days is that if he should have an encounter with the police, that that encounter not be one of criminality but of compassionate assistance. 

One can hope. 

-Peter W. Marty, senior pastor

4 Comments on “Cops working a different beat”

  • Marcia Willi

    July 20, 2021 at 1:34 pm

    Disordered brain yep, that’s what its like! That’s @ least what my brain is like @ times,wanting to do something ( activity) and not being able to make yourself leave the confines of your ” comfort zone ” ( read house) in order to participate. Thanks Peter..

  • Lynn Batcher Robinson

    July 16, 2021 at 8:48 am

    C.I.T. is being offered by the Bettendorf Police Department in September. It’s being sponsored in part by funds given in memory of Michael Robinson, a St. Paul member and police chaplain for many years. He would love knowing he was helping make this happen.

  • Sheila Mesick

    July 15, 2021 at 7:33 pm

    I am thankful to all who are willing to step up and say, we can do this differently and better, people can be treated according to their needs. May those who find kinder ways to serve be blessed and supported in their efforts.

  • Linda Cammilleri

    July 15, 2021 at 3:17 pm

    Pastor Marty
    So wished I knew about the film-my bad. Joe also has an older brother who is in a home for mental illness. I am sorry for your anguish also. May God care for all who suffer.
    Thank you

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