A national effort to heal the relationship between communities and police kicked off Friday morning in downtown D.C.
The prayer breakfast at the National Law Enforcement Museum is one of thousands of events planned this weekend across the country as part of the National Faith & Blue Weekend.
Rev. Markel Hutchins, who spearheads the Atlanta-based initiative, now in its fourth year, told WTOP that faith leaders have always been at the forefront of change in the country.
“There has never been a movement for successful social change in American history that was not anchored in the faith community,” Hutchins said. “We have to cause communities and law enforcement to begin to see the humanity and have mutual respect for one another.”
Hutchins says there will be 4,000 similar events across the country this weekend, in an effort to heal police-community relations.
Acting Chief of D.C. Police Pamela Smith, an ordained minister, encouraged the crowd of local faith leaders to partner with law enforcement; joining their collective expertise and passion to make the city a safer place and to increase their efforts to reach those most at risk within their own communities.
“We need you to stand up, we need you to be strong, we need you to open up your church doors, we need you to be a breath of fresh air for our young people,” Smith said.
Smith, who started the job in July, is overseeing a department struggling with understaffing and retention rates. D.C. is also grappling with sharply rising crime fueled by homicides and carjackings.
Wards 7 and 8 see the most cases, according to the city. Residents in those two wards told WTOP the city isn’t doing enough to keep them safe.
“It’s really gotten worse,” said Belinda Robinson, of Southeast. “And it’s like nobody cares.”
Homicides are up 38% so far this year, with a total of 216 killings, according to D.C. police data. Carjackings are up more than 100% from this same period last year.
WTOP’s Mike Murillo contributed to this report.