Santa Paula Police/Clergy Council heating up to cool things down
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: February 08, 2013
The Santa Paula Police & Clergy Council is heating up to cool things down, while looking to keep the peace and provide programs for young and old.
The council met January 14 at the Limoneira Pavilion to offer an update of where they’ve been, where they’re at and where they want to go to help prevent and ease unrest in Santa Paula among other programs. Santa Paula Fire Chaplain Kay Wilson-Bolton, an early organizer of the council, said a similar group in Oxnard “has hundreds of members that have gotten the training and they can really mobilize” when needed.
A SPIRIT of Santa Paula project, the local council was formed about three years ago. Santa Paula Foursquare Church Pastor David McKeever is the chairman, and conducted the meeting attended by dozens of people.
Those in the crowd included City Councilman Martin Hernandez, City Manager Jaime Fontes, SPPD Officer Walter Harper and Sgt. Jimmy Fogata, among others. “We want to share who we are and where we want to go,” said McKeever; “... pastors, lay people, business owners, people that just care - our main goal is to bring peace to the city.”
McKeever said about “three years ago” former Santa Paula Police Chief Steve MacKinnon contacted him and the Police/Clergy Council was established to work with the SPPD on issues of mutual concern. Such issues included juvenile and senior citizen issues and early release of prisoners into the community.
McKeever said MacKinnon was particularly concerned about the mandated shifting of thousands of prisoners from state prisons to local jails - a move that would trigger a domino effect of early releases to create more jail space. At that time the thinking was “We may not be a large gang city,” but the goal was “to structure something to bring peace to the city” through various programs serving youth and others.
“It took about a year kick to it off” and engage others, but “even today it’s not full bore,” a situation McKeever said the council plans to correct. When it comes to such programs, McKeever said, “There’s no better man” than the Rev. Edgar Mohoroko, CEO/senior consultant for Social Outreach Service (SOS) and one of the nation’s foremost experts in gang-intervention, outreach to youth and clergy mobilization.
Mohoroko, who co-founded and is the president of the National Police Clergy Council, also has been also working with the homeless and parolees for over 25 years. You have to know your audience to get their attention, and Mohoroko told several stories of how familiarity eases peacekeeping.
The Oxnard Police/Clergy council resulted from a 2001 rash of homicides: “We said enough is enough... there’s no way the police can do this alone,” and the partnership was gradually formed. Now council members are “called whenever there’s an incident,” offering support and a calming presence behind the yellow lines of police crime scene tape.
“We can mobilize 150 people with one phone call,” said Mohoroko, and all members operate under strict guidelines governing public contact. Showing that you care, not just preaching, said Mohoroko, is a valuable tool.
McKeever noted that when the Santa Paula council was formed, “We looked basically at four areas,” including youth, specifically those in middle school an age where children are “very, very vulnerable.” Relationships have been formed with the Santa Paula Family Resource Center and Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Clara Valley and Isbell and Briggs schools are part of the Granny’s program, where older adults are “just hanging out with the kids and talking to them.”
Senior citizens are also vulnerable to scams and ID theft, and special programs conducted by Eleanor Karneke offer education and tips to avoid becoming a victim.
Howard Bolton is director of Next Step, which works with the parole department on issues and programs targeting those released from jail including obtaining a high school diploma. Meetings draw up to 90 parolees who are at high risk of re-offending and again being jailed.
McKeever said with more incidents of crime, the council is hoping to form a tighter relationship with Santa Paula Police. “We have five trained peacemakers” whose main responsibility is to “keep the peace” and diffuse retaliation if gang violence occurs. As it is, he said, the local Police/Clergy Council was called out once about two years ago more as a proactive preventative measure.
Sgt. Jimmy Fogata said the SPPD will become more active with the council, and explained the Explorers program, which often “takes those kids that are at risk and gives them that chance” to better their lives and futures.
Form more information on the Santa Paula Police/Clergy Council, call 805-415-3260.