Ministers Against Crime (Except Those Committed by Police Officers)

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Houston has—or at least had—a group called “Ministers Against Crime,” which teams the city’s clergy up with Houston police officers for a number of crime prevention and police promotion programs. This interview includes a pretty good summary of the group and what it does.

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the program. It seems there could be some church/state concerns, particularly when the department starts handing out “badges” to religious leaders (although it isn’t clear if the badges imply any real authority). On the other hand, policing has grown far too reactionary. One of the byproducts of the militarization trend is the “us versus them” mentality it tends to ingrain in cops, even those that don’t serve on SWAT teams or drug task forces. It’s generally a good idea for cops to be more active in the communities they serve. And churches obviously are a pretty important part of many communities.

In any case, the alliance in Houston is breaking down, because Houston police don’t want the ministers they’re working with to criticize them. The fissures started forming when a Houston police officer was recently acquitted on criminal charges after beating a teenager.

Eyewitness News spoke with the coordinator of the group Houston Ministers Against Crimes and he says it’s situations like the Chad Holley case why they are no longer working with the Houston Police Department.

“This is their rule book. They took our group, the Houston Ministers Against Crime, and changed it to PACA (Police and Clergy Alliance),” said the Rev. Robert Jefferson with the Cullen Missionary Baptist Church.

Reverend Jefferson is one of dozens of ministers who are no longer working with HPD. Houston Ministers Against Crime and the police department had a partnership for more than three decades. But just recently, HPD adopted new guidelines for the Police and Clergy Alliance, also called PACA.

“In PACA, you cannot speak out against the city, nor the police department, you cannot associate yourself with people who are speaking out, and you cannot cause any kind of problem in the city as long as you’re carrying a PACA badge,” said Rev. Jefferson.

Wednesday’s verdict in the Chad Holley case, Rev. Jefferson says, is an example as a case he would not be able to discuss under the new guidelines. But since turning in his PACA badge, he spoke openly to us about it.

“Yes, I do feel like they whooped that boy unmercifully and somebody should be punished,” Rev. Jefferson said.

Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland says he has done nothing to curb anyone’s First Amendment rights to speak or say what they want.

“But as a member of PACA, if you are representing PACA, obviously we don’t endorse any political views, and I think that’s proper,” said Chief McClelland.

“It’s saying shut up, muzzle it, don’t say nothing or we take your badge. That’s what it says,” Rev. Jefferson said.

Part of the new PACA guidelines are that members can’t hold a press conference or press briefing to condemn city administration or the Houston Police Department. In addition, members aren’t allowed to represent anyone in any matter adverse to the city or HPD.

If the point of the program was to promote and celebrate Houston’s police officers, I suppose you can’t really fault HPD, here. If the intent was to nurture dialogue and relationships between the department and the city’s churches on crime and policing issues—a far more productive objective—then the new HPD guidelines are obviously counterproductive.

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20 Responses to “Ministers Against Crime (Except Those Committed by Police Officers)”

  1. #1 |  Don | 

    Is it just me or is the government getting more thin-skinned by the minute?

  2. #2 |  tarran | 

    Is it just me or is the government getting more thin-skinned by the minute?

    The nation state’s grip on power is weakening. They hope that they can buy time by shutting up people who would question their legitimacy as a source of peace and order.

    In the end, though, it will avail them nothing. One day people will recognize that government is a disease pretending to be its own cure.

  3. #3 |  Brandon | 

    Don, that’s the same reason they are trying to shut down the internet. As the populace wakes up to the abuse being perpetrated by the state, the state will become more vicious in its attempts to retain power.

  4. #4 |  XYZ | 

    it has been my experience that police officers are some of the most thin-skinned folks out there. So, no, it’s not just you. Prosecutors need to take some blame for this. In my area, officers are consulted regarding the resolution of cases rather than addressing the case on its merits.

  5. #5 |  j00bz | 

    “I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the program. It seems there could be some church/state concerns…”

    The church/state concerns would exist if the church became a mouthpiece of the state or if the partnership granted the church some exclusionary benefit. If the PACA program goes forward as HPD plans, where the church is bound from criticizing the state, those concerns are valid and real. But it seems like the church’s dissociation from the program precisely because of that injunction shows that the separation is live and well.

    In short, the HPD took what could have been a fantastic community relations program and tried to turn it into transforming community leaders into willing mouthpieces for the baton-wielding arm of the state. Brilliant.

  6. #6 |  Quiet Desperation | 

    tarran : The nation state’s grip on power is weakening.

    On what parallel Earth is that occurring?

  7. #7 |  SJE | 

    #5: you raise an EXCELLENT point. The revamped PACA program raises serious 1st amendment problem under both church-state separation and freedom of speech. A Houston taxpayer could probably start a lawsuit that would make for very bad PR for the HPD and those churches that stay in and lick boots.

  8. #8 |  EH | 

    yeah, i like that. PACA is an attempt to create a church/state problem.

  9. #9 |  Deoxy | 

    If the point of the program was to promote and celebrate Houston’s police officers, I suppose you can’t really fault HPD, here.

    Well, can’t fault them any extra for this particular part of that, anyway. There’s still plenty of fault in wanting a program that “promote[s] and celebrate[s]” unconditionally.

  10. #10 |  EH | 

    A fanclub for the police, what could go wrong?

  11. #11 |  James J.B. | 

    I usually hate stereotypes. However, I think blacks are our only hope on the issue of police brutality. I know that may seem racist (?) but between my white friends and black friends – most of the whites will always find a way to excuse the cops , no matter the race of the victim. In this case, well, he was a burglar after all, so its ok. In saying that though, the black leaders abandon other cases of police abuses, where the victims are white.

    While racism may have motivated this beating in Houston, I, as many here no doubt, see it as a larger problem – the cops believe they can beat us without consequences. All to many times, the juries agree.

  12. #12 |  Personanongrata | 

    “In PACA, you cannot speak out against the city, nor the police department, you cannot associate yourself with people who are speaking out, and you cannot cause any kind of problem in the city as long as you’re carrying a PACA badge,” said Rev. Jefferson.

    So if you turn a blind eye toward malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance in Houston Texas the Houston Police Department will let you carry your very own PACA badge.

    What a great bargin for the ordinary folks who fund the Houston Police Department with their taxes and the churches with their tithings.

    The darkest depths of Dante’s hell await the souls of these sellouts.

  13. #13 |  Dan-zor | 

    “…it isn’t clear if the badges imply any real authority”

    The badges undoubtedly *imply* authority, the question is whether they *grant* real authority. But reading through the article, it becomes clear from the discussion of the badges by the HPD and the good reverend that *taking away the badges* is the form of leverage the HPD is exercising to try to keep their community partner churches in line. That definitely implies that the badges are a perk and have some kind of real advantage. It is inappropriate and a corruption incentive to hand out such markers of authority to *any person* who is not actually a cop and doesn’t actually have any authority to enforce the law. More likely than not, the perk is that the ministers get to flash the badge to avoid security checks, avoid speeding tickets, etc. This kind of thing is a low-level problem that pervades departments across the country.

  14. #14 |  marie | 

    It seems there could be some church/state concerns, particularly when the department starts handing out “badges” to religious leaders (although it isn’t clear if the badges imply any real authority)

    In a search situation, when your home is invaded by stranger carrying guns, it isn’t clear that the REAL badges mean anything, either.

    This issue should separate the men from the boys in blue, won’t it? Houston will be able to tell good ministers from the bad.

  15. #15 |  croaker | 

    @5 Remember a few years back when “Homeland Security” tried to get ministers to preach Romans 13 from the pulpit in an effort to quell dissent and suppress ideas like adherence to constitutional principles?

    Same idea here, now that dissent and constitutional principles are listed as signs of terrorism.

  16. #16 |  John P. | 

    COP WORSHIP, Its all they are interested in… anything less is unacceptable, in the eyes of law enforcement.

    Its Cult of Personality law enforcement style.

  17. #17 |  John | 

    In fairness, somebody needs to celebrate all the wonderful work of Texan cops, like, um…

  18. #18 |  Burgers Allday | 

    Packratt has posted sort of an equivocal goodby over at the Injustice Everywhere blog yesterday. fyi.

  19. #19 |  Dante | 

    #11
    I’m white, and I absolutely hate the police. How does that fit into your views of white people?

  20. #20 |  KPR | 

    #11 above ^^

    White people, especially those who call themselves conservative or Republican tend to always excuse police abuses UNTIL it is their own body (or that of someone they love) in the crosshairs. Even in those cases many will excuse the police by stating that the incident was ‘isolated’.

    And, when they read or hear of police abuse, they excuse it with ‘oh it’s just a whiney liberal’, or it happened to ‘gangsters’ so it’s OK.

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