When it comes to serving the community, police officers sometimes need a little help from the church.

Kilgore Police Department Victim Services Coordinator Jonathan Latham spoke to Kilgore Rotary Club last week about the department’s Clergy and Police Alliance program.

“CAPA is designed to help us, as people who help others, especially the police, first responders, myself. CAPA is an organization that helps people who are in need,” Latham told Rotarians.

The city of Kilgore posted an announcement to its website July 22 regarding the development of the 2019 CAPA Academy, in which pastors, clergy and religious leaders attend a 20-hour, 8-week training course to become familiar with police department operations  and the manner in which various crimes are handled by law enforcement.

“This program is a unique ministerial opportunity. C.A.P.A. members and their organizations will be called upon to pray for the police department, to be intentional in the building of relationships with law enforcement and other governmental officials, be available on a voluntary basis and ride with officers on patrol to view and evaluate community issues and be available for crisis interaction involving our community members with follow-up ministerial services. Our goal with the C.A.P.A. program is to involve churches of every faith and denomination in the Kilgore area,” the statement read.

CAPA extends support to those in the local community who are experiencing tough situations. In some cases, such support is extended to family members of people who have committed criminal actions.

“Sometimes, these people that are in need, they have not relied up on the proper sources for their information so they make decisions, sometimes rapid decisions, that are a bad idea,” Latham said.

He went on to describe an incident in which a man had attempted to steal copper from a location which was still hooked up to electrical power, leading to his death.

“His family, of course, they’re the victims because they have no breadwinner there. I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for the copper-cutter because he should have known better that it was contacted to electrical sources. But, nevertheless, my heart goes out to the family of someone of that nature.”

CAPA connects police officers and clergy members to better equip each group with tools and skills needed to help people who are grieving, in need or facing difficult life circumstances.

“CAPA helps us when we deal with someone who has had a loss. We will call the clergy to help us in situations such as the one I mentioned there. Sometimes, social media causes people to have problems and, again, they’ll make decisions they shouldn’t make. Sometimes people get married to the wrong person and have problems as a result of that. Anybody who’s a pastor, they know about these kinds of bad decisions and they run into it all the time. Well, so do we, in the police department, so what we do is we combine our forces,” Latham said.

He described a situation in which a woman had been injured as the result of a dogfight and whose husband had died of a heart attack while trying to break up the fight. Latham helped the woman get to the hospital for treatment and then asked her if she had a pastor in the area. She said she didn’t but was affiliated with the Church of Christ.

Latham contacted Chris Vidacovich, minister of Chandler St. Church of Christ, who reached out to the woman and the church extended their help to her. Vidacovich drove the woman to Houston to relocate and CAPA members helped the woman avoid becoming the victim of a scam in which a person posing as a potential suitor tried to fleece her of her life savings.

“That is a direct result of our relationship with the pastors there. It helped us to protect this woman from being scammed,” Latham said.

Latham said organizations like CAPA can also be invaluable to police departments in times of controversy.

“Whatever happens, if some controversy comes up, what the police need is somebody to help them, not to hurt them. If you hurt the police, you hurt the city. The police belong to the city and so you want a group of police that want to serve, want to do a good job and know that they’re backed by the city. Well, that’s what CAPA does.”

Rev. Will Wilson, a Rotarian and CAPA member, praised KPD and CAPA, commenting on a statement made by KPD Chief Todd Hunter at the previous night’s city council meeting in which Hunter announced Kilgore had been ranked the 59th safest city in Texas for 2019.

“I will say this, if the direction of our police department keeps going the way it’s going, I think we’ll move from 59 to 55 to 45, we’ll move up,” Wilson said.


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