Four church leaders are first graduates of Police Clergy Academy
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: January 24, 2014
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula Times
Four church leaders were lauded at Tuesday’s City Council meeting for being the inaugural graduates of the Police Clergy Academy.
The Rev. Jenny Crosswhite and Pastors Mike O’Donnell and Kathleen O’Donnell were able to receive their certificates of graduation in person from Police Chief Steve McLean and Sgt. Jimmy Fogata, but Pastor Michael Fincher was unable to attend.
“It is my privilege of awarding certificates of completion from the nine week academy,” that McLean said was a series of courses crafted to “Put them in our boots...the more they know what we do the better,” police and clergy can work together for the betterment of the community.
“I just want to acknowledge that other pastors and reverends,” of the city’s 30-plus churches also started the academy, “but for some reason,” said McLean, “were not able to complete,” the specialized training.
He thanked Fogata for designing the course and noted the dedication of those who attended the program “Nine weeks in a row... “
And that includes Mike O’Donnell: “He was fresh off a heart attack,” said McLean, “but came every week for nine weeks, that says a lot about him,” and his strong community feelings.
Crosswhite said the academy “Was a really great experience...I didn’t really know an awful lot about police policy and procedures, how officers make decisions on use of force and what level of force, how K-9s are paired with handlers,” as well as death notifications and homicide investigations, among other subjects.
“I found it helpful and fascinating,” to learn of issues and actions from the side of law enforcement, and Crosswhite said the academy, “Will help us work together...”
Kathleen O’Donnell said it was “an incredible honor” for such varied representatives of the police department to devote such time and “Give so much to the four of us,” in the academy.
“It was a very full experience,” that O’Donnell said she looks forward to encouraging others in the clergy to take advantage of in the future.
“Back in the day when I was a presidential advance man,” working with local law enforcement throughout the nation, Mike O’Donnell said he gained much insight into operations of local police agencies.
“I’m pleased to say this police department has as much passion, as great as leadership as any police agency I have ever known,” and he commended the council for hiring McLean.
“It is exciting what Chief McLean is saying and doing,” and O’Donnell said the SPPD, “Can be compared with any agency in the country and brought up very near to the top.”
Mayor Rick Cook noted he and Councilman Bob Gonzales retired from the SPPD and found “It was nice to have you guys around, we had to do so, so much,” including “One of the worst,” notifying families that tragedy had struck a loved one.
Over the course of the nine-week academy the four church leaders attended two- and three-hour-sessions taught by SPPD personnel including Fogata (SPPD overview and introduction of McLean); patrol procedures (Senior Officer Larry Johnson); death notifications and media relations (Senior Officer Walter Harper); less lethal training (Senior Range Master Dave Manning); detectives (Senior Office Allen Macias); homicide/crime scene investigations (Senior Officers Ken Clark and Paul Spencer); use of force (Spencer and Officer Hector Ramirez); and the Special Response Team (SRT Members).
Fogata oversaw every session and noted McLean plans on having more Police Clergy Academy courses.
“We’re also trying to resurrect the Citizens Police Academy,” he noted.
The goal though is to get more clergy involved in the training: “They’re the ambassadors for our police department,” and can act as a buffer to those in their congregations that might have contact with law enforcement.
“When people have questions now the clergy has been exposed to it all, police policies and procedures they can answer questions, quell the complaints.”
Fogata said participating clergy “Can now say, ‘oh, now we understand,’ why the police do things, why crime scenes have to be locked down, how death notifications are done...when people are asking questions the academy trained clergy are another tool in our toolbox, just like police are another tool in their toolbox.”
Overall, he added, “It’s a two-way street...they learn from us and we learn from the clergy, which is a good thing.”