By: Herb Scribner, Deseret News
Caped crusaders won't be helping an Alabama city fight crime.
Instead, it'll be police-trained Christian pastors.
Operation Good Shepherd
, a publicly funded ministry started by the Montgomery Police Department in Montgomery, Ala., which places Christian pastors at crime scenes to counsel and pray with victims and witnesses, held a ceremony on Thursday to graduate 37 trained pastors, according to The Atlantic
“What we want to do is combine the religious community and the Montgomery Police Department, and we want to unite those as one,” said Corp. David Hicks during an interview on Irvin's Christian radio program, according to The Atlantic.
And the program's officials “believe a stronger sense of Christianity will reduce crime,” wrote Ray Downs in the article. He also wrote how pastors would see the appeal of the program.
“After all, their job is to preach, and they're being given a chance to reach individuals in extreme distress,” he wrote.
At the ceremony Thursday, Billy Irvin, a popular Christian radio preacher
, spoke and advocated for the program.
But is it legal? Downs wrote he isn't sure if the program is constitutional. Although the pastors work on a volunteer basis, police officers are paid their regular wages for training. And the program also has built administrative costs so pastors can have access to crime scenes, according to The Atlantic.
Another issue Downs highlighted in his article is there is no evidence that Operation Good Shepherd could have an effect on crime.
“Corp. Hicks, who created the program, said he did not consult any professionals for it,” wrote Downs. “Rather, he based it on similar programs that were put into place in Dayton, Ohio, and Arlington, Texas. However, those cities have not recorded data on the effect of those programs, so there's no indication they are a good idea to recreate.”
But whether the program has an effect on Montgomery or not, the city is still in a difficult situation, Downs wrote. Montgomery has the third-highest gun violence rate, the sixth-highest murder rate and the third-highest incarceration rate in the United States.
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