As the Delaware Community Coalition nears the end of its sixth month, leaders of the organization said Monday that they are committed to fostering relationships between the police and the community.
City of Delaware Police Chief Bruce Pijanowski and Rev. Tracey Sumner spoke to the Delaware Rotary Club Monday afternoon and said the Community Coalition was started last year after increased tensions between the police and communities that resulted in protests, riots and shootings across the nation.
Pijanowski said it was after five police officers were killed in a shooting in July 2016 that he decided to reach out to Sumner, a personal friend, to have a discussion about building relationships and a sense of community between police and churches in Delaware. Pijanowski told the Rotary Club that he had a voicemail from Sumner when he got to his office that day and said the two have been working with more than a dozen churches since to host events and foster a sense of community and unity.
“How do you keep these things from happening near you?” Pijanowski said. “One of the biggest things I heard was connect with your clergy, connect with your community leaders and develop those relationships. You need to have those relationships built before something happens because you can’t build it after.”
Likewise, Sumner said his turning point was after a 13-year-old boy brandishing a BB gun was shot in Columbus last year.
“[The officer] did his job correctly but then it hit me in my spirit, that’s a little close to home,” Sumner said. “We listen to all the things going on in the country and in the world and it’s always someplace else but that was close to home, 30 minutes from where you and I live. The Lord said we cannot continue to allow what’s going on to just happen and not do anything about it because it’s going to come here. The issue is not if it comes here, the issue is about what we do when it does.”
Sumner and Pijanowski said since the organization got under way they have held regular meetings between police and community leaders, and churches and organizations have hosted social events to build relationships.
“We believe that as a unit of administration, as a unit of churches and as a unit of community we all can come together, work together to help this city grow, positively,” Sumner said.
Sumner highlighted the Coffee with the Cops events that have taken place in recent months as giving members of the community a chance to interact with police casually.
“The officers are out on foot in the community, they aren’t looking for drugs or problems they are there to say, ‘Hi, I’d like to get to know you,’” Sumner said.
Sumner said not all the churches they have approached have responded positively to the idea and mentioned that in some churches, members left after learning the church had joined the coalition. Sumner and Pijanowski said otherwise the reception to the organization has been very positive.
The presentation was met with applause and positive comments from the Rotary Club.
The next Coffee With A Cop event is Feb. 18 at Coffeeology at 43 N. Sandusky St. from 10 a.m. to noon.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.