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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
Columbus Day weekend 2020 was the inaugural National Faith & Blue Weekend (NFBW). Throughout the country, law enforcement agencies, houses of worship, and civic leaders formed alliances that brought communities together to support law enforcement, break down barriers between police and communities, and engage in collaborative problem-solving efforts. NFBW is the brainchild of Reverend Markel Hutchins, Chief Executive Officer and Lead Organizer of Movement Forward, an inclusive social change organization that works to protect, promote and advance the civil and human rights of all people.
“Our pathway to progress around policing as a nation is a collaborative one that focuses on our commonalities rather than our differences,” said Hutchins. He continued, “Because sixty million Americans attend weekly gatherings at more than 350,000 houses of worship nationwide, nothing rivals the depth and breadth of influence presented by houses of worship. They are unique and powerful gateways to the heart of communities in which they have a mutual interest in achieving effective police-community engagement.”
From October 9–12, law enforcement agencies joined with faith-based institutions to host more than 650 community-focused events in 43 states and the District of Columbia. As impressive as these numbers are, what is most telling about NFBW’s success was the widespread support for unifying events that existed among a broad cross-section of organizations that came forward in support.
The 20 largest police departments in the country, most of the 100 largest departments, and numerous mid-size and small departments all participated. Islamic mosques, Catholic churches, Protestant churches, Evangelical churches, Jewish synagogues, and Buddhist temples were each represented among the participating houses or worship that took part in events. Social media engagement was also extensive with more than a million impressions on popular platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Movement Forward approached the COPS Office to serve as a co-sponsor and garner the support of the law enforcement community early in 2020. All of the nation’s leading law enforcement membership organizations signed on as partners and began encouraging the participation of their members and constituents. Movement Forward and the COPS Office also convened leaders from the various faith denominations in the country to create awareness of NFBW throughout their organizations. Current events like the COVID-19 pandemic and recent calls for social justice reform increased the appetite for an opportunity to reduce public isolation and discuss difficult issues.
The result was that police departments, sheriffs’ offices, local houses of worship, and community leaders all began reaching out to one another locally to plan and register events under the NFBW umbrella. An event host could be a law enforcement agency, house of worship, or community organization, and they were provided with templates on how to conduct one of several types of events:
Templates for these events were provided as a means of supporting local efforts. However, hosts were welcomed to convene any type of event they envisioned. The only requirement was that the event be inclusive and emphasize positive collaboration.
The law enforcement community did not disappoint. In all, Movement Forward classified registered events into 50 separate categories, which far exceeded the events for which they provided templates. Activities were held in person; virtually; and at sports fields, auditoriums, and other venues conducive to social distancing. The Raleigh (North Carolina) Police Department teamed with a local church to host a Men’s Breakfast. In Washington, D.C., the Metropolitan Police Department and local clergy held a Community Peace Walk. The Faith & Blue event in Long Beach, California, was a community Zoom meeting. In Montezuma, Georgia, the ministerial alliance delivered messages of unity in various houses of worship during Sunday services and invited local law enforcement to attend and worship with congregants. The Shreveport, Louisiana, Faith & Blue event was a community softball game. In Alexandria, Virginia, there was a showing of the movie Selma, followed by a community dialogue, and the Dallas (Texas) Police Department hosted a “You Ask, We Answer” discussion with community members.
News coverage of events that took place during NFBW included 227 television, radio, and newspaper stories highlighting local efforts. That equates to each story reaching approximately 10,000 to 250,000 people with positive and unifying messages about law enforcement, depending on the size of the media market in which the stories ran. This extensive media coverage will go a long way toward changing the narrative about law enforcement. While the inaugural event is over, quarterly Faith & Blue events are being planned. Learn more by visiting the Faith & Blue website.
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