Fairfield Police and faith leaders look to build partnerships

FAIRFIELD — The police department and religious leaders are looking to strengthen their partnership throughout town, which they said will make Fairfield a safer and stronger community.

“It’s imperative that we, as public servants, build and cultivate relationships with our local faith leaders as they help connect us to members of the faith community through their houses of worship,” Fairfield Chief of Police Robert Kalamaras said. “These connections are extremely important to our department as they help us to facilitate open and productive dialogue and engagement with one another, and especially with those who feel disconnected or discriminated against.”

In an effort to do this, he recently met with six local faith leaders to discuss community issues and the importance of building partnerships.

Kalamaras said the meeting went “extremely well.” Each faith leader was very active throughout the conversation and interested in discussing the policies and procedures that the police department had established to help build connections and foster trust.

Those in attendance included Rev. Curtis Farr of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church; Rev. Alida Ward, of Greenfield Hill Congregational Church; Rabbi Joshua Ratner, of Congregation Beth El; Rev. Josh Feay, of Black Rock Church; Rev. Young Choi, of Fairfield Grace United Methodist Church; and Rev. Milas Shepherd, of Christ Presbyterian Church.

Ratner said he wanted to participate because they want to be a helpful resource to everyone and hear what was going on.

“Specifically, I wanted to meet with the chief of police to hear directly from him about his vision of policing, what it means to be in partnership and his vision for that and ways that we as clergy could be a resource to him and his officers,” he said.

Ratner said he feels good about how the meeting went.

“I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to hear directly without any kind of filter and hear what the perspective was from the chief of police.” he said. “He heard us as well and we had the chance to ask him some questions. I came away feeling very positive about the experience and hopeful for the relationship that we’ll be able have with them.”

Kalamaras said the group spoke in great detail about the police department’s Crisis Intervention Team program, a group that was developed in 2011 comprised of police personnel trained to respond to a wide variety of mental health and substance abuse issues.

The group also discussed how during times of crisis, many of the community members seek the unique comfort and guidance that only their faith leaders can provide.

“We also discussed each faith’s community and its interactions with our officers,” Kalamaras said. “While doing so, we brainstormed ways in which we can continue to grow the bonds that we have established thus far and ways in which we can better support each other.”

He said they recognize the importance of having these relationships with faith leaders as the department looks to better connect with the community and provide more complete services.

Kalamaras said prior to the meeting, the local faith leaders have shown the Fairfield Police Department a “tremendous” amount of appreciation and support throughout the years.

“We greatly appreciate their continued support and look forward to identifying ways in which we can advocate for them in return,” Kalamaras said. “By engaging law enforcement officers and local residents through the connections of houses of worship, Fairfield can become a safer and stronger community.”

“With mutual respect and understanding of one another, we can share what we have in common instead of being divided by our differences,” he added. “Through these relationships and conversations, we have the opportunity to continue to enhance the safety and well being of our community.”