November 22, 2013
In the summer of 2013, the Montgomery Police Department (MPD) revealed Operation Good Shepard (OGS) which was inspired by the Police and Clergy Working Together (PACT) program.
Pastors were employed to accompany officers to crime scenes to offer religious counsel to calm those present.
Those pastoral participants were required to “attend weekly classes in which police teach them ways they can discourage crime and show them exactly what’s happening in their communities.”
Training for the program includes:
• Basic understanding of crime scenes
• Gang awareness
• How to identify illegal drugs
• How to ascertain a suspect on an illegal substance
American Atheists threatened to sue to end the program.
In Alabama, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) wrote to city officials and citizens to complain about the OGS, stating: “[A]ny plan by public officials to engage in a scheme to promote Christianity using public funds and public officials is blatantly and facially unconstitutional under the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”
Chis Murphy, director of Public Safety explained that “the purpose is crime prevention, not religious recruitment. We took careful strides when we first organized this to make sure it was broad-based and not just Christian.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) requested financial information pertaining to the cost of the OGS program, yet only received back documentation about the program itself.
Randall Marshall, director of the ACLU, asked again earlier this month for paperwork regarding any family that had requested a religious leader accompany the police on suspected criminal calls to ascertain the function of the OGS during an investigation.
The ACLU also wanted to see any records of OGS reporting “suspicious activity” to law enforcement.
Marshall said: “A program in which government is involved in getting crime victims spiritual counseling … is suspect and problematic. That being said, our approach is to get as much information as we can before we decide what the next step is. The city should step back and take a close look at the constitutionality of the program.”
Last September, Billy Irvin, Christian radio preacher, spoke at the graduating ceremony of the OGS.
The graduating class number as 37 who would now be empowered to accompany MPD to crime scenes under the guise of an “outreach ministry”.