Showing Faith in Community
Chief Mark Saunders, Toronto Police Chaplains, along with dozens of officers joined the Jesus in the City Pastors’ Breakfast at the Estate Banquet & Convention Centre March 30, an annual tradition to connect police and the faith community.
Chief Mark Saunders asked that the pastors, many representing the black community, to commit to working together to end senseless violence.
“As a homicide investigator the one phenomenon I came across over and over again was young black men shooting and killing other young black men. That’s something that we need to tap into right now. That cycle has to break. It’s not just an enforcement issue. If it was an enforcement issue I wouldn’t be having breakfast with pastors. I’d be having breakfast with other agencies,” Chief Saunders said. “We have to have more holistic solutions for this. We talk about building a stronger relationship with our faith-based community… we have to tap into that better because there is such a rich source of leadership, nurturing, compassion, of hope.”
Saunders said the Service will be modernizing how it engages with the community, having Neighbourhood Officers in long-term roles so people know them by name, not only the uniform.
Read Action Plan: The Way Forward, to learn more about modernization.
“So coming to you is strategic on our part if we want to be successful… You play a much bigger role if we are going to get this right,” said Chief Saunders. “As we modernize the relationships are going to be stronger at local levels. We’ll do that enforcement piece, we’ve always done it. The stats show we’re doing great. The stats show we’re doing it with dignity and respect because when you look at complaints they’re going down.”
He said the opportunity to meet over breakfast, rather than in the midst of a crisis allows for a better relationship to form.
Rev. Marva Tyndall, of Real Identity Discovery Ministries, offered the Chief and Service a prayer, inscribed on a plaque.
“Thank you so much for that prayer for the men and women who go out and try to make that positive difference for those who are in need,” Chief Saunders said. “I’m so proud to be the Chief of the Toronto Police. It’s not just because we have such a great police service but because we have such great citizens.
“It is a beautiful city, it’s a safe city, it understands and embraces inclusion and all of those things that so many other countries do not quite understand yet,” the Chief said.
The breakfast is part of the Jesus in the City initiative, led by Rev. Ayanna Solomon, which has held an annual parade in the Toronto since 1999.
Rev. Wendell Gibbs, who is the 55 Division chaplain, said that the faith community has much to offer in creating a safe city.
“The impact we have every Saturday, every Sunday at our services where we’re impacting thousands of lives to be good citizens, respectful to society, honour their elders,” Gibbs said. “There are positive things going on in our churches, in our mosques, in our temples. Wherever we are, we are encouraging young people to live wholesome lives, to get education and to not commit crimes and be in gangs.”
As a police chaplain, Gibbs is among many volunteer faith leaders who give their time to offer spiritual support to officers in the station or out in a scout car.
“I stand to give support to all officers: Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, it doesn’t matter there are police officers from every part of the community and they need spiritual care, they need gentleness and kindness,” Rev. Gibbs said. “Someone to turn to in the times of despair when they go through their own traumas.”