Unexpected duos have been taking on the streets of Norfolk together and making a difference.
They call themselves the Clergy Patrol.
It’s a program where local pastors patrol the streets alongside Norfolk police officers. Since the program’s beginning nearly a year ago, people involved say they’ve seen a big change.
Norfolk Police Chief Larry D. Boone, who created the Clergy Patrol in December of 2016, says he implemented the idea as a way to ease tension between police and the community.
“All they do is bring credibility to the program and the Norfolk Police Department — particularly in those communities that always have a suspicion of the police,” Boone said.
The program recruits pastors and leaders in Norfolk churches.
A clergyman or woman is assigned to a specific area where they patrol with an officer twice a week.
“I said ‘can I get your support?’ And and all of them jumped at the opportunity,” said Boone.
When officers respond to a call, the clergy stay in the patrol car.
Once it’s safe, they minister in any way they can.
Norfolk Police Chaplain, Reverend Leroy Briggs, says the program has built a greater trust.
“You get to some parts of the community ‘oh here come the popo,’ they nickname them, but when they see them together they say ‘oh that cop’s with a preacher,’ like, ‘wow things are looking up,’ ” said Briggs.
Antipas Harris is a local pastor in the Clergy Patrol program.
Harris says he’s been in all types of situations, from domestics to homicides, and even standoffs.
And most times after he introduces himself, things take a turn for the better.
“I think people’s demeanor change when they realize a pastor is there because deeply interwoven in our communities is this spirituality,” Harris said. “We care about people and we seek to enhance the quality of life,” Harris added.
Harris says one moment that’s engraved in his mind was after a standoff.
He says he ended up in the police car with the man that was causing a lot of trouble.
After Harris explained who he was, the man asked him to pray for him and broke down into tears.
“I had the chance to tell him and look him in his eyes and say I believe in you and when I said that he said pastor you believe in me? And you wouldn’t believe the person I was talking to at that moment was the one who was giving a lot of difficulty. In this situation, once the police closed the cell, I said within myself at midnight, this is why I’m here,” he explained.
Reverend Briggs says he’s seen a big impact this past year since the Clergy Patrol started.
“I see a lot of difference, I see people smiling on the streets I see them when they see police officers thank you for your service and that’s what’s needed, ” said Briggs.
“Our country has a lot we need to fix and part of that is police in particular in the black community, and this could be one step in that direction,” explained Harris.