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Community-police engagement at the forefront of National Faith & Blue Weekend

Uniting law enforcement and communities through connections in local faith-based and community organizations


Among the anti-police sentiment being expressed across the country, there are also many efforts to provide support and community bridge-building.

One of those events is the National Faith and Blue weekend, scheduled for October 8-10, and formally announced at a press conference and kick-off event on Tuesday, October 5, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Atlanta is the home base of Reverend Markel Hutchins who introduced the Movement Forward, Inc OneCOP (one congregation one precinct) initiative. Hutchins is an activist and civil rights leader whose goal is to unite law enforcement and communities through connections in local faith-based and community organizations. A press release described the effort as based on the premise that strong communities are built on mutual respect and understanding. Hutchins believes that law enforcement entities and faith-based organizations are both pillars of local communities that help neighborhoods thrive.

About 2,000 events are planned in coordination with the Faith and Blue weekend, doubling the number from 2020 where there were 1,000 events in 43 states in the effort’s inaugural year. The weekend event is planned on a grand scale with the endorsement of every major law enforcement group including representatives from the National Fraternal Order of Police, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Major Cities Chiefs Association, the Police Executive Research Forum, the National Organization of Back Law Enforcement Executives and a long list of other national, regional, state and local law enforcement professional associations.

Hutchins recognizes that with 65 million Americans attending houses of worship every week, reaching those faith-based populations offers a tremendous opportunity to engage the public at large and open OneCOP to everyone. The initiative is supported and sponsored by FirstNet Built with ATT and Motorola Solutions Foundation.

Community policing happens year-round

While this weekend’s events are a culmination of community policing efforts in jurisdictions or the kick-off point, police leaders know that community policing is never a single event but an embedded, ongoing process.

In addition to this weekend’s events, the OneCOP initiative is a year-round program. Based in Atlanta, OneCOP seeks to pair together beat officers with local houses of worship. According to the Faith and Blue website, the paired officer and faith leader address mutually held biases and increase familiarity. OneCOP can be part of a number of community interaction events, with guidance from resources on its web pages listing activities from art festivals to blood drives to parades.

“Recent times have proven that we cannot simply march and protest away the problems – we have to turn our pain into power,” said Rev. Hutchins. “Our pathway to progress around policing as a nation is a collaborative one that focuses on our commonalities rather than our differences.”

The Faith and Blue weekend and the ongoing bridge-building efforts of OneCOP are described as an effort to engage in police reform in a collaborative manner rather than the radical demands of what Hutchins describes as the “vocal minority” who “are bastardizing and demonizing law enforcement.”

Communities support police presence

Hutchins affirms that an overwhelming majority of Black Americans and Latinos support an increased police presence in some neighborhoods because of concerns about public safety. While acknowledging the concern about police use of force, Hutchins says “we also have to deal with crime and violence. We tackle this by engaging.”

Police and community leaders have an opportunity to work together through many initiatives. Working with Hutchin’s efforts could strengthen existing efforts or begin a collaborative process. Faith and Blue and OneCOP have broad support in the ongoing effort to gain or regain mutual respect between law enforcement and the community they serve.

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Joel Shults retired as Chief of Police in Colorado. Over his 30-year career in uniformed law enforcement and criminal justice education, Joel served in a variety of roles: academy instructor, police chaplain, deputy coroner, investigator, community relations officer, college professor and police chief, among others. Shults earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri, with a graduate degree in Public Services Administration and a bachelor degree in Criminal Justice Administration from the University of Central Missouri. In addition to service with the U.S. Army military police and CID, Shults has done observational studies with over 50 police agencies across the country. He has served on a number of advisory and advocacy boards, including the Colorado POST curriculum committee, as a subject matter expert.