Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Pastors call for community forum

Staff Writer | June 13, 2020 1:00 AM

Would like to help law enforcement outline key issues raised in protests

COEUR d’ALENE — Several pastors are offering to work with local law enforcement to hold a community forum to discuss concerns “brought to light by recent events throughout our country.”

A letter sent to Coeur d’Alene Police Chief Lee White, Post Falls Police Chief Pat Knight, and “Presumptive Sheriff Elect” Bob Norris, and signed by eight pastors, says, “Because of our deep appreciation and admiration for our community’s officers and deputies, we believe this is an important moment to hold our public officials accountable. We do this for the sake of our treasured officers, our fellow citizens, and our community.”

Pastor Matthew L. Erickson of Calvary Lutheran Church in Post Falls said he was the primary author of the letter. He said he felt it was time to do what he could as a citizen and a pastor to create better understanding between police and the public.

He believes a forum could do just that.

“Over the past weeks our TVs, newspapers, radios, and social media have been saturated with examples of law enforcement officers acting in ways that range from non-helpful to evil,” he wrote. “While we have also seen many officers at their best, the negative realities strike deeply at our identity as American citizens and break our hearts. As we watch these images many of us feel blessed to be served by Kootenai County’s excellent law enforcement departments.”

Erickson thanked law officers who “give so much of themselves in their daily service to our community. This is a better place to live because of our trusted deputies and officers.”

He added that “There is nothing that would cause us to expect any form of police brutality or misconduct from our local officers, and yet we want to be proactive in learning about the measures you are taking to ensure that our officers and deputies are equipped with the training and support they need to protect our community, and themselves. “

Erickson said the pastors would like the forum to address many areas, including: specializing training, resources for officers to work through trauma, screening of recruits, process for removing unfit offers, and creating a culture where officers and deputies are encouraged, and empowered, to intervene if they see a fellow officer making bad decisions on the job.

They also would like to discuss additional support needed from citizens of Kootenai County.

“We know that your work relies deeply on public support and collaboration,” Erickson wrote. “We want to play our part to make sure our law enforcement agencies continue to be a point of pride and joy for our community.

“We trust that, in light of recent national events, you are already reviewing each of these issues within your departments. Please take your time to do this well. We look forward to engaging in a robust conversation with each of you in the near future as you share with us the ways you are working to protect and serve all of the citizens and guests of Kootenai County.

The letter is also signed by Pastor Dan Forsgren of Trinity Lutheran Church; Pastor Ron Hessel, Summit Northwest Ministries; Pastor David T. Gortner, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church; Bob Albing, Lutheran Church of the Master; Pastor Bill Miller, Beth Shalom Messianic Fellowship; Pastor Ken Osso, Post Falls Church of the Nazarene and Pastor Megan Madsen, True North Church of the Nazarene.

White and Knight could not be reached for comment.