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(Image by: Othello H. Curry, 3rd) This past Monday evening, an enthusiastic gathering of local religious leaders and community activists convened at the Sacramento Food Bank in Oak Park to hear from top law enforcement officials in an effort to foster better relations and cooperation with the community through faith based organizations.
The summit was led by Bishop Ron Allen, Pastor of the Greater Solomon Community Church who also serves as the executive director of the International Faith Based Coalition (I.F.B.C.). Allen founded the I.F.B.C. in 2008 and serves as its president and chief executive officer. The I.F.B.C.’s mission and purpose is described on their website as, “Uniting religions to educate youth about the dangers of drug abuse.”
In attendance at the summit was Chief Rick Braziel of the Sacramento Police Department, Ben Wagner, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern of California, and William Ruzzamenti, Director of the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Program Task Force.
(Image by: Othello H. Curry, 3rd) Allen came to the podium and spoke eloquently about how faith based messaging is a key to preventing at risk youth from becoming involved in a lifestyle that leads to gang membership, violence, drug trafficking and drug abuse. He stated further that the purpose of the I.F.B.C. was to provide a forum for the faith based organizations to “put aside differences and come together for the greater good.”
Allen emphasized that he and other members of the clergy were weary of presiding over funerals that resulted from “black on black crimes.” He also reminded those in attendance that members of the clergy are “not just overseers of their congregation, but overseers of the community.”
Each of the law enforcement officials that spoke emphasized that their primary responsibility is to protect all members of the community. During their remarks, every one conveyed their agency's commitment to partner with faith based and community based organizations that have programs in place and are taking measures to assist those re-entering the community after serving time in custody, intervene with young adults that have been identified as being “at-risk” of falling prey to the criminal justice system, and guiding youngsters away from embracing negative values and engaging in activities that hinder success in education.
The speakers all agreed that poor performance in school was a prevalent common denominator among youth who later beome entrenched in the criminal justice system.
(Image by: Othello H. Curry, 3rd) During his time at the podium, Wagner indicated that a partnership between law enforcement and the community, including faith based organizations, was a necessity to buck the trend of violent crimes in the area that spiked upwards since January 2012, after a few years of decline.
Wagner indicated that “community involvement along with a sustained commitment,” would be the best way make a difference. He noted that federal prosecutors target bigger cases which include “typhoid offenders,” or those who “infect” other less sophisticated offenders by recruiting them into a criminal lifestyle.
Wagner also noted that strategies such as “ceasefire,” which have been implemented in the Sacramento area by federal and local officials come with a “carrot and stick,” approach in targeted neighborhoods.
Wagner admitted that resources are scarce, and that community based organizations are necessary to provide support and services to assist offenders to successfully re-enter the community as the “carrot.” He issued a bleak warning to individuals who fail to take advantage of the offers to participate in programs designed to assist them to become productive members of the community and continue to offend.
Wagner indicated the “stick” that awaits those individuals targeted by the program consists of tenacious federal prosecution followed by long sentences in faraway places outside of California.
(Image by: Othello H. Curry, 3rd) Braziel noted that his department was active in engaging the community through seeking its input via advisory panels and by investing in youth at an increasingly younger age. He is working toward longer term strategies for involvement in the community that includes starting a public safety charter school. The school would include grades 6 through 13 with the idea that its graduates would matriculate with an AA degree and would be qualified to become firefighters or police officers.
Braziel received an appreciative response to his statement that he is now prepared to create a faith-based advisory council to complement the student advisory council that is already in place.
Members of the faith-based community present at the summit were afforded up to 3 minutes at the podium after the formal remarks concluded.Most were either members of the clergy or representatives of community based organizations.
Some directed their remarks in support of law enforcement, while many others let it be known that it was also their duty to lead members of the community in taking responsibility for those they serve. Another common theme was to utilize the summit as a means to foster more collaboration with one another in order to do everything possible to prevent violence and drug related criminal activity.
Allen indicated that the next summit would be held in the Del Paso Heights neighborhood of Sacramento. All individuals and organizations that are interested in attending and/or becoming involved with the I.F.B.C. may contact the organization via email at email@example.com or through its website by clicking here.