By CHRIS AGEE
Mineral Wells Police Chief Dean Sullivan recognized several local faith leaders for being among the first graduating class of the newly minted 4th Responders program.
Mayor Mike Allen presented each graduate with a certificate during Tuesday night's Mineral Wells City Council meeting, and Sullivan explained to those in attendance what the new response team will provide.
He said the program evolved from discussions he had with community clergy members.
"We began talking about the importance of partnerships under our community policing philosophy," he said. "We discussed how we could leverage the faith-based community together with our city resources to make a better Mineral Wells."
Graduates spent 10 weeks in training in the Ministers Police Academy, Sullivan said, and will respond to certain situations along with emergency crews.
"There are a number of situations our officers are trained to deal with, but typically very 'Joe Friday-esque,'" he explained. "Just the facts and not very compassionate ... that's when we have to deal with the business at hand."
In those situations, he said 4th Responders will be able to bring a different dynamic, describing a domestic incident during which "a minister stepped up to the plate and began to pray with that family member and that de-escalated the conflict and made it much easier for officers to restore the peace and nobody had to go to jail."
Sullivan noted graduates learned the skills necessary to respond effectively when the need arises.
The academy, he said, "is styled much like the Citizens Police Academy; however, it's a little different because we're empowering these clergy members to partner alongside our officers and be able to intervene and intercede when the situation dictates."
Their training took place during weekly sessions and "consisted of classroom and hands-on instruction to provide a working knowledge of the Mineral Wells Police Department."
Sullivan said instructors presented all aspects of police activity, including patrol, narcotics, critical incidents, homicides, death notifications, crimes against children, jail operations, domestic situations, crime scenes, victims' assistance, "and they all had a good time at our weapons range."
The goals set for the 4th Responders program include praying for the city and its leaders, police officers and special needs, as well as assisting the police in non-traditional roles, assisting in domestic situations, youth and jail services, victims' support and relaying factual information back to the community.