Quintin J. Simmons

Quintin J. Simmons is a Washington, D.C.-based writer, editor, and reporter examining race and religion. He holds graduate degrees in political science from George Washington University and journalism from Georgetown.

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Should Pastors Partner With Police?

by Quintin J. Simmons 04-24-2018
In a D.C. suburb, pastors work to build trust—and accountability—with local police. But does it work?

EARLY LAST YEAR a Hyattsville, Md. man arrived home to find police cars and crime scene tape on his walkway. He learned that his younger sister had accidentally overdosed, and the coroner had been summoned to rule out foul play. The man wanted to enter the house, view his sister’s body, and perhaps say his goodbyes. But the police wouldn’t allow him inside.

“I could see when he started walking up the walk that he was unhappy,” said Rev. Stephen Price, who police called to the scene. “He and the officer were having a very tense conversation,” said Price, pastor of First Baptist Church of Hyattsville.

So Price intervened. “He’s mad and the officer is feeling strained,” Price later explained. “I said, ‘Walk with me a minute.’” The man vented his frustration, but eventually calmed. Price explained what the police needed to do and persuaded the man to stand with his family while police finished their work in the home. In the interim, Price promised to be a go-between for the man and the officers until the body was released. Shortly after, the family was allowed inside. They invited Price to join them, and he led them in prayer.

For the family, it was a day of tragedy and grief. For police, it was a daily reality of their job: dealing with death and navigating mistrust from the community they serve. Yet, for a nation where interactions with law enforcement all too often end with violence, it was a small step in the right direction: The police responded to a call, tensions were diffused, and no one got hurt.

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