Indy faith leaders, IMPD launch campaign to build bridges, improve communication

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Imam Muhammad Ndiaye of the Al-Haqq Foundation in the 5500 block of Georgetown Road had never been in front seat of an IMPD squad car, preparing for patrol.

The imam found himself Monday roleplaying with another clergy member at the IMPD Academy what it was like to do a traffic stop as two academy trainers pretended to be bad guys being pulled over.

“I’ve learned pretty much that police officers their lives are in danger,” he said, “because the experience I had today we had to pull over this car and they pretty much came out and started shooting and we were taken by surprise.

“Now we know what it is like wearing the badge.”

The imam was one of approximately two dozen clergy members invited to the academy as Indianapolis was selected as the first city of a national rollout campaign for OneCOP, an Atlanta-based program that trains members of the faith based community to be the liaisons between law enforcement officers and the residents the officers have taken an oath to protect and serve.

“Indianapolis is the first in the national implementation phase of the OneCOP program,” said National League Organizer Rev. Markel Hutchins. “It is very significant because Indianapolis is at a crossroad in ways. You’ve got a lot of crime and violence that continues to plague this community, not unlike other communities across the country, but you also have some tensions around police and community relations. But Indianapolis is ripe to show the nation that we can work together to solve problems. We’re not reduced to standing in our corners yelling at each other.”

The attendees to the first day of the conference received an hour-long briefing on IMPD use of force, training and review, followed by role-play traffic stops and a short patrol with Metro officers and Marion County sheriff’s deputies.

“My anxiety rose significantly that what he was reading on the rap sheet of the types of people were that we may encounter, I became anxious,” said Rev. Shonda Nicole Gladden of St. Paul AME Church in Brightwood after her ride with a deputy searching for defendants with outstanding warrants. “Having taken part in the training was very very helpful to let me see how an officer can defuse a situation.”

Lodge 86 of the Fraternal Order of Police invited OneCOP along with IMPD and MCSO to Indianapolis in the wake of the FOP’s #thinkbigger campaign to explore alternative means of fostering better communication between officers and the community.

Rev. Hutchins said the program has been a success in Georgia.

“There are hundreds of houses of worship in Atlanta that have joined forces and have adopted a partnership with their police professionals and we’re seeing a lot of productivity when it comes to a decrease in crime and violence as well as an increase in police and law enforcement in general,” said Hutchins. “It’s a faith community, faith institution. These congregations, many of them in the city of Indianapolis, have hundreds if not thousands of members. Those congregations have resources and their members should get to know the officers that work in those communities and those communities should get to know the officers and the officers should get to know the communities.”

Visitors from Durham, North Carolina, sat in on the Indianapolis training as organizers expect representatives from a half-dozen cities to attend a Tuesday luncheon as more than 1100 local clergy members have been invited to Primo Conference Center to learn about their potential roles in the program.

Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry, IMPD Chief Bryan Roach, Sheriff John Layton, U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler and FOP 86 President Rick Snyder are scheduled to address the luncheon intended to bring Indianapolis to the forefront of police and faith based community relations.

“We have the potential to be one of the innovators,” said Rev. Gladden. “Indiana’s known for being an innovator so if we can help to bridge congregations and officers in the community as a resource for help I think we’ll be doing a great thing in showing our nation what Indiana does best and that’s become great leaders.”