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Law enforcement looks to ‘build bridges’
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First-term Bryan County Sheriff Mark Crowe ran in part on a platform of trying to improve relations between county law enforcement and residents.

Recent Faith & Blue events in Pembroke and Richmond Hill are included in that effort, which in turn is part of a national initiative involving churches and law enforcement aimed at promoting better understanding on all sides.

On a windy Saturday in Pembroke, Crowe called it building bridges. 

“It’s us coming together to try and help bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community,” he said. “I think the partnership with churches can help guide that effort along.”

In Pembroke, that effort included hot dogs and hamburgers at First Christian Church, with the Pembroke Police Department, the Pembroke Police Department Auxiliary and a number of North Bryan churches participating. A week later in Richmond Hill, BCSO and local churches gathered at Henderson Park for the showing of Space Jam: A New Legacy.

The outreach is important, said Cecil Shuman, a member of Cypress Bay Baptist Church in Lanier. The church is known as “the little church with the big heart.”

“I think it’s a good thing,” Shuman said. “A lot of time people don’t want to talk to law enforcement when they have a problem, but they’re not all bad. There are some good ones, a lot of good ones. So this is a good thing. We’ve got to come together as a community, especially for our children.”

Shelly Butler of the Bridge Church in Pembroke said her church regularly supports local law enforcement. At the Pembroke event, about 20 members were on hand to show that support.

“We pray for our community and we’re here to support them, because when people give them that support, it can only enhance and make our community stronger,” she said. “We have their back in prayer and know they’re there to help us when we need help.”

Pembroke Public Safety Director Bill Collins said events such as Faith N Blue also shows residents there is regular cooperation among local law enforcement agencies, “and that’s a good thing.”

“It shows the sheriff will share resources with us, we’ll share with him, and we’re willing to come together as one and meet with the community,” Collins said. “We try hard to be very available to the communities we serve, and it’s exciting to me to see churches want to be involved with us.”

Pembroke Police Chaplain Jesse France, a retired Army NCO and longtime Pembroke resident, said community events that can bring people and police together are much needed.

“I don’t think you can overstate the importance of events like this,” he said. “The biggest misconception about police out there is that they want to get involved in a confrontation. I can assure you there’s not one law enforcement officer who wants to go out and be involved in a confrontation. They want things to end peaceably so they can go home at night.”

That’s partly why France volunteers as a police chaplain and helped found the PPA, which was busy grilling hot dogs and hamburgers the day Faith N Blue was held in Pembroke. “It’s important that we meet like this and get to one another, so when something happens people can have tolerance for one another,” France said. “It’s one thing the world doesn’t have enough of anymore. We should be able to disagree with one another, and then get up and hug each other. That’s how we learn, when we disagree. If we all agreed with one another all the time, none of us would learn anything.”

Shuman, who was there with members of Mill Creek Baptist and other Cypress Bay Baptist members at the behest of Pastor Earl Herman said he’s seen some improvement in relations between residents and local law enforcement, but knows there’s work to do.

“It’s going to take time,” he said. “I know it’s going to take time. But this is a good step.”

Bryan County Sheriff ’s Office PIO Jennifer Fleming said turnout for the movie in South Bryan was great, and residents asked for similar events to be held in the future.

View our pictures from both Faith & Blue events.

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