RVA Police and MCC team up to offer Citizens Police Academy with LGBTQ focus
Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) is hosting the Richmond Police Department’s annual Citizen’s Academy this year. The program, open to anyone who wishes to participate, teaches topics such as neighborhood Watch, Crime Prevention 101, Domestic Violence/Violence Prevention, Bias-Based Policing, 911 Communication Center Presentation and Tour, Active Shooter Scenarios.
The event was originally scheduled to begin on January 11, but has now been rescheduled to take place from February 4-25 on Wednesdays from 6 to 8 pm, and Saturdays following from 8 to 11am.
“This is the first time that we’ve stepped outside of the police department to have it,” Cpt. Minton said. “So we’re pleased that MCC was willing to host the academy at their church and we’re looking forward to doing more academies with them in the future.”
MCC was founded in 1978 to serve the spiritual religious needs of the LGBT community in Richmond and around the nation. Cpt. Daniel Minton, the LGBT Liaison from the Richmond Police Department, and his colleague Sgt. Carol Adams, reached out to Rev. Kenny Callaghan about partnering for the Citizens’ Academy.
Callaghan noted his respect for RPD in their effort to reach out to a community many feel has often been neglected or unfairly targeted by police in the past.
“They wanted to use our church to specifically reach out to LGBT people,” said Kenny Callaghan, head pastor at MCC. “The police have often times earned a negative reputation within our community, and so they’re trying to change that.”
Rev. Callaghan moved to Richmond from Los Angeles last June and transferred his credentials from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America to MCC.
“Coming to Richmond is like a culture shock,” Rev. Callaghan said. “In many ways, the LGBT community here is more integrated within the culture of Richmond than what I’m used to. For example, there’s no really gay community here, it’s all integrated. So for LGBT people to find one another, I think is a little bit more challenging. It’s another reason why I think the police academy can be helpful; because we don’t know where to find one another and where to find community.”
As part of the program, citizens will be able to utilize a training simulator that places people in an interactive video where they have to respond to crimes as if they were law enforcement. The program is a shoot or don’t shoot scenario where participants can make the sort of swift judgement calls that officers can make on a day to day basis.
“It’s very interesting because at this point, we’ve had over 2,000 people go through it,” Cpt. Minton said. “A lot of citizens will tell us ‘why don’t you just shoot the gun out of the offender’s hand? Or why don’t you shoot the person just to wound them?’, and to this point, no one has been able to shoot the gun out of anybody’s hand. It’s really an eye opener for people to see what it’s actually like without putting them into the danger that we go through.”
Rev. Callaghan is interested in “how it can help the community know how the Richmond police can support community members with different things like how to make them aware of criminal behavior within their community and what they can do about it, how the police can be a positive influence rather than a negative influence.”
When Callaghan first brought up the citizens academy to his congregation, there were some concerns from older members of the church who remember just how bad police interactions with LGBTQ communities were. Gay folks used to be arrested for dancing together, and were forced to create secret clubs in order to congregate in safety.
“Several people have had negative experiences with the police,” Callaghan said. “So I understood their concern about giving too much information and not knowing how that would be utilized by the police department.”
Callaghan said that when he voiced concerns to Sgt. Adams, her response and apology was swift. He is acknowledged RPD was working towards improving that relationship with events like this.
“They understand the plight that we have had within the culture as a whole and with government and city officials, like the police department,” he said.
Part of the police academy program includes background checks, but for those uninterested or unwilling to participate at that level, they can still attend and undergo the same training, they just won’t become official “Neighborhood Assistance Officers” and be able to volunteer with the police department.
“For people who don’t want to do a background check, they just wouldn’t be eligible for that after the academy,” Minton said.
According to Cpt. Minton, Neighborhood Assistance Officers can work with the police with events they host throughout the city. They can also help out with traffic control or parking tickets.
Rev. Callaghan feels that the event can foster community among people and that they can find out what programs are available to help LGBT people.
“It is a program that will empower citizens to be able to utilize the police department and services more effectively,” Callaghan said.
Top image of past Citizens Academy event via RPD
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