Critical, not confrontational: Faith leaders kick-off National Faith and Blue Weekend

National Faith and Blue Weekend
Published: Oct. 9, 2020 at 11:57 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -Masks did little to muffle the message of unity at Greenhouse Church in Gainesville.

“We’re having a critical and crucial conversation and not a confrontational conversation,” said Gerard Duncan, a faith leader hosting the event.

A conversation about bridging the gap between law enforcement and members of the community was led by a number of faith leaders throughout Alachua county.

“What is important is that the faith leaders and law enforcement are visibly seen in the community,” added Duncan. “Visibly seen in the community working together with a shared interest and partnership for safer, stronger communities all around Gainesville/Alachua County.”

“Two objectives tonight: one is we want clarity on the state of where things are right now and second is we want actionable items to walk out of here,” said Mike Patz, the pastor at Greenhouse Church.

The two-hour event was online and drew a small crowd of about 20 masked and socially distanced in the seats to hear from leaders.

“When you fast forward to 2020, you see a more diversified law enforcement agency,” said Gainesville Police Chief Tony Jones.

Senator Keith Perry, City Manager Lee Feldman, High Springs Police Chief Antoine Sheppard answered questions on combating implicit bias, mental health and racism.

“And one of the things that I think everyone on this stage tried to do,” said Jones. “And it’s still a struggle to try to have a police force or law enforcement force that is reflective of the community. So you can’t say that it is predominantly of one particular segment of society.”

Initiatives like community policing, condemning racism, and overcoming implicit bias were addressed but what’s next? The group agrees increasing diversity and continuing these critical conversations is key.

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