A View From A Pew

A View From A Pew

By Wane A. Hailes

Should we Stand on Maya Angelou’s Words or Accept the Apology of Columbus Chief of Police Stoney Mathis?

At a recent press conference reacting to the shooting of a 6-year-old Chief Mathis had this to say:

“We need the churches to get involved, we need the pastors to start pastoring their communities, we need the fathers to start staying at home with the children – somebody needs to start raising these children, and it can’t be the community it starts at home,”

Some in the community took issue with his statement including civic and social organizations such as the NAACP, A Call To Talk, A Call To Action and A New Era Columbus. One of the organizations the IMA (Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance), an organization of church leaders of color requested and was afforded a meeting with Chief Mathis to voice their concern with his statement and ask him to clarify exactly what he meant by pastors needing to start pastoring and fathers need to stay home.

After some conversation Chief Mathis apologized for his choice of words and the IMA led by Pastor J.H. Flakes, III asked that in the future the IMA be included in conversations and discussions regarding solutions to curtailing crime in our community.

My take on the situation is that addressing crime within communities involves a complex interplay of factors and reducing it to a singular cause or solution oversimplifies the issue. Saying that the solution to fighting crime is solely for pastors to start pastoring and fathers to stay at home ignores the multifaceted nature of criminal activity and its root causes. Here’s why this perspective is considered disingenuous and ill-informed:Crime can be influenced by a wide array of factors including socioeconomic status, education, employment opportunities, mental health issues, substance abuse, and social environments. While positive community and family engagement can play a supportive role in crime prevention, they are part of a broader spectrum of necessary interventions.Pastors and religious leaders can indeed offer vital support and guidance within communities. They often play roles in mentoring, counseling, and providing a moral and ethical framework. However, expecting pastors alone to significantly curb crime rates overlooks the need for comprehensive community support systems, including education, social services, and law enforcement collaboration.Similarly, suggesting fathers need to stay at home unduly simplifies the challenges associated with parenting and the dynamics of family life. Effective parenting and father involvement are important, but they are not panaceas for crime prevention. Many factors contribute to an individual’s potential involvement in crime, and not all are directly related to the presence of a father in the home. Moreover, this perspective does not account for the varied structure of modern families.

It also overlooks systemic and structural issues that contribute to crime, such as poverty, inequality, and discrimination. These challenges cannot be addressed solely through individual or family-level changes. Addressing them requires comprehensive policy reforms, community development programs, and societal shifts toward inclusivity and equity.Effective crime prevention and intervention require collaborative efforts across multiple sectors, including law enforcement, education, social services, health care, and community organizations. It involves addressing the root causes of crime, providing pathways for rehabilitation and reintegration, and creating safe and supportive community environments.It’s important to recognize the valuable contributions that religious leaders and engaged parenting can make to creating supportive and positive environments. However, tackling crime comprehensively requires a multifaceted approach that involves the entire community and addresses the underlying social, economic, and systemic issues contributing to criminal behavior.

Finally, you would think a police chief with over 30 years of law enforcement experience working with multicultural and racially diverse communities would have been more selective in his wording.

As the second largest city in Georgia, I have long suggested that our police department have a professional Media/Public Relations Director who would serve as the spokesperson for the department. This individual would at least be able to avoid making any embarrassing statements. Barring that, Mathis should have at least shared his comments with someone of color. An ideal person should have been his Deputy Chief after all she is a woman of color.

That is why, although I understand and respect the members of the Columbus Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance’s willingness to accept Chief Mathis’s apology, I cannot.

I will always stand by the words of the late Maya Angelou: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time”.

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