Faith & Blue weekend aims to build ties between law enforcement, communities

As violent crime continues to plague communities across the country, an Atlanta-based organization hopes to bridge the gap between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve.

The third annual National Faith & Blue Weekend is Oct. 7-10. The weekend encourages community leaders and law enforcement agencies to hold events to build trust and relationships.

Rev. Markel Hutchins is the lead organizer for Faith & Blue.

“We’ve had enough marching, we’ve had enough protests, we’ve had enough fighting. What we need now is solutions,” Hutchins said. “If I thought marching and protesting would get us where we need to be, I would be marching right now, but it hasn’t worked.”

Credit: Jozsef Papp

Credit: Jozsef Papp

Hutchins called upon faith-based leaders to invite their local law enforcement agencies to their congregations during the weekend of Oct. 7 to start building relationships.

“The time for marching and protesting around police involved controversies is largely behind us,” he said. “The crime and violence that has terrorized too many of our communities cannot and will not be addressed by law enforcement alone.”

ExploreCobb events set for first National Faith and Blue

Cobb County Sheriff Craig Owens said that over the past three years, the program has helped the sheriff’s office interact with the community. This year’s focus will be reducing gun violence, he said.

“This gun violence that we are having, it’s killing everyone,” Owens said. “We’ve got to do something to focus on getting guns off the street and off the hands of young men and women.”

Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police Executive Director Butch Ayers said his organization supports and helps law enforcement agencies throughout the state hold events during Faith & Blue weekend.

“The community cannot solve the crime problems and issues by themselves, law enforcement cannot solve the issues by themselves but working together, developing that trust, building that reliable communication between them is going to a be a winner for our community,” Ayers said.

Hutchins came up with the idea for a weekend of unity, healing and reconciliation in 2020, asking the U.S. Department of Justice and national law enforcement groups to get involved following months of unrest as a result of the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

“Within a three-year time frame, this has become the largest and most consolidated police community outreach project in American history,” Hutchins said.

ExplorePolice killings continue to rise two years after George Floyd’s death

According to data from Pew Research Center, a December 2021 survey of U.S adults found 31% said they had little to no trust in police. Violent crimes and police killings have continue to increase during the same time period.

Credit: Jozsef Papp

Credit: Jozsef Papp

No state or federal laws require police departments to report when a person is injured or killed by police. The Washington Post, which tracks police shootings nationwide, reported at least 1,055 people were shot and killed in 2021, an increase from 999 in 2019, with Black people being killed at twice the rate of white people.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which is often asked to investigate officer-involved shootings in Georgia, investigated 100 shootings in 2021 and has already investigated 84 so far in 2022.

Last year, Atlanta police investigated 160 homicides, up from 157 in 2020 and 99 in 2019. This year, homicides are already outpacing last year’s, having reached the 100-mark in early August.

ExploreAtlanta’s homicides up for 3rd straight year

Hutchins feels communities working together with law enforcement is the best way to reduce crime.

“If we are to see a reduction in crime and violence, if we are to see a reduction in officer involved tragedies, if we are to change the narrative and shift the discussion, it will be only because faith-based and community organizations figure out a way to partner and collaborate with our law enforcement professionals,” he said.

Multiple agencies in Georgia will host events with community organizations from Oct. 7-10. A full list of events and participating agencies can be found at faithandblue.org.