By: Gabriel Donahue, Deputy News Editor
The Towson University Police Department participated in their inaugural Faith & Blue Weekend by hosting an open house event for on-campus faith groups on Friday.
Faith & Blue, a national initiative, was created by the civil rights organization MovementForward, Inc. to “facilitate safer, stronger, more just and unified communities” through a partnership between police and faith leaders, their website says.
“The faith-based communities have stepped up to try and bridge that gap to get communication going between law enforcement, first responders and the populations we serve,” Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police Joe Herring said. “We have a really good relationship with our community here.”
Herring said Faith & Blue is part of TUPD’s community outreach and crime prevention efforts.
“If you have a belief system and you have a place of worship, then the Towson University police will do all that we can to ensure your right to worship that religion, that philosophy, and we will make sure that the venue in which you do is a safe one when it’s on campus,” Captain Woodrow Meyers, commander of TUPD’s operations support bureau, said.
Meyers surveyed attendees, saying he is “willing to engage” in discussions regarding the current state of policing and policing strategies.
Further, Herring said that TUPD is open to practicing restorative justice.
According to an article from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Law School, restorative justice views crime as “a violation of people and relationships” rather than just a legal violation. It focuses on rebuilding communities and centers the victims while holding the offender accountable.
“We fully believe in community policing,” Herring said. “We indoctrinate it. We want to make sure that everybody is treated fairly, honestly.”
Members of the Catholic Campus Ministry attended the open house. Catholic Chaplain Kevin Ewing said that although there hasn’t been a threat to the Campus Ministry as an on-campus faith group, the dialogue between themselves and TUPD is important.
“The college environment can be a place where people can feel unsafe or not necessarily know what resources they have to be able to know that they are safe, that they are protected, that they are supported,” Ewing said.
Rebecca Perry, a graduate student and member of the Campus Ministry, said it’s important for faith groups to have support from the police as it helps to eliminate bias.
“It’s not as much talked about, but it does happen. I’ve seen where people are just not nice to those of different faiths,” Perry said.
Other faith groups on campus were invited, Meyers said but did not attend. The Towerlight reached out to TU’s Hillel chapter and the Muslim Student Association for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
The Baltimore County Police Department also participates in the Faith & Blue program. While BCoPD officers attended TUPD’s event, the two departments participated in Faith & Blue individually.
TUPD planned this first Faith & Blue event to be “something without a serious agenda,” Herring said. He emphasized that they are willing to meet with community members, listen to any concerns and will work to resolve any issues.
“I would encourage all those people who may have some concerns, bad experiences with police departments, to reach out to me and my office,” Herring said. “We want to meet with you, and we want to talk to you. We want you to be comfortable here on this campus. If people need something from us that we’re not giving, I need to know about it.”