New Haven Police and Clergy Build Community Relationships

With riots in Baltimore and Ferguson highlighting tensions between police departments and their communities, New Haven vows to be different.

“The police have to understand the community. The community has to understand how police operate,” said New Haven Mayor Toni Harp.

That's why three years ago, local clergy and the New Haven Police Department began monthly meetings to discuss issues affecting the community and how they can be managed.

So far, they say conversations have been beneficial and so has the relationship. For example, when cellphone video of an officer arresting a teen went viral, the clergy stepped in.

“We were very instrumental in bringing the family together meeting with the police department and getting individuals help who needed help,” said Rev. Boise Kimber with First Calvary Baptist Church.

They hope to never have a situation like Baltimore or Ferguson, but they say the relationships built over the past three years will make the difference if there is.

“We are not like Ferguson and/or the issues in Baltimore. All of us can call the Chief and a member of his command staff when we have an issue, and I think those issues around the country, they really do underscore the need for this partnership,” said Rev. Keith King with Christian Tabernacle.

“I'm not so arrogant to think that mistakes don't happen, but you don't build relationships in the heat of a crisis, you build them long before, and we have been building relationships for years, that we trust each other and we know each other,” said New Haven Police Chief Dean Esserman.

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