By Anna Hamilton
RIVERSIDE—Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Riverside hosted a public safety forum on November 9 designed to bolster relations between local police and the communities they serve.
The evening, organized by Terrence Stewart of Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC), the local faith-based community organizing group, was able to bring the community together to peacefully dialogue with Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz.
The meeting centered on H.E.A.T., a new program designed to help public safety professionals more effectively receive community input in the protection that they provide. H.E.A.T. stands for Hiring, Equipment, Accountability, and Training. Stewart explained that the program seeks to advise public safety organizations in these four areas. Specific issues addressed by the H.E.A.T. program include:
• Proper purchase and use of equipment, such as guns.
• Accountability in law enforcement decisions.
• Training in the policies of procedural justice that allow community members to be heard and respected.
• Training in sensitivity toward social groups that can influence perceptions or implicit biases.
“HEAT is about Hope!” said Rev. Ben McBride, Regional Director of Clergy Development for PICO California. “Hope is living in each other’s neighborhood but it doesn’t happen unless it makes it across the street.”
During the course of the evening, some of those in attendance shared personal stories of their encounters with the police in their neighborhood. Chief Diaz indicated his commitment to strengthening communication and relationships, remarking “my number one goal is to rebuild trust with the community.”
McBride urged community members and police to unite behind a common cause as he invited those in attendance to repeat “One people, one fight”/”Un pueblo, una lucha.”
To learn more about these programs, please contact the Office of Restorative Justice at (909) 475-5474.
Anna Hamilton is the Associate Director of Restorative Justice for the Diocese of San Bernardino.