Police, faith leaders join to make Lynnwood a more welcome place

LYNNWOOD — Police are joining forces with faith leaders throughout Lynnwood to make the city a safer and more welcoming place.

Police Chief Tom Davis and his command staff met last month with about 50 people from a spectrum of religions, officially launching the “Cops and Clergy” program. Officers had to carry additional chairs into a conference room at the Lynnwood Convention Center to accommodate the crowd.

It’s an ideal partnership, Davis said. Police have experience navigating the city, and faith leaders are compassionate communicators. They can serve as liaisons between law enforcement and their congregations.

Davis said the program is not a result of recent local or national events.

“It’s been percolating for a while,” Davis said.

During their first meeting in February, police and clergy members talked about what they hope to gain. Police offered to meet with congregations and discuss topics of interest. Several people said they wanted to learn about how best to help prevent drug abuse and homelessness.

These meetings also provide an inside look of the police department. Sgt. Coleman Langdon said he plans to explain the process the department goes through when there is an officer-involved shooting.

About a week before the gathering, a man was shot and killed by a Lynnwood police officer on Highway 99. The man reportedly had advanced toward police with a knife.

Lynnwood Mayor Nicola Smith said the partnership is a way for police and faith leaders to learn how to help one another.

Romualdo Sente, a lead pastor at International Bible Christian Fellowship, said his church was broken into three years ago. Within the past 20 years, they had two arsons.

More recently, Sente said, he has seen teens wander into a wooded area near the church, a popular place for drug use.

“I hope to work with police on preventative measures, rather than call when something goes wrong,” Sente said.

Officer Mark Brinkman, a drug-recognition expert, gave a presentation at the February meeting on types of drugs and indicators of abuse. In addition to working in law enforcement for 30 years, Brinkman has been a youth pastor.

At every school dance, there is almost always Ecstasy, he said. Many were surprised. Heads turned to talk with neighbors and some people scribbled notes.

The presentation also covered antidepressants. Prescriptions for these medications have boomed in the past decade, Brinkman said.

He has seen kids come to youth group looking impaired, often a side effect of taking a new antidepressant. There is a month-long tolerance period when the body is adjusting to the medication.

Clergy members should look out for unusual behavior that continues for months. That person may be overmedicating, he said.

In future meetings, police plan to talk about mental health, domestic violence and cybersecurity.

“Here is the start of something really great,” Davis said.

Caitlin Tompkins: 425-339-3192; ctompkins @heraldnet.com.

Meeting

Lynnwood Police Chief Tom Davis has invited faith leaders to meet with him at 9 a.m. March 16 at the station, 19321 44th Ave W. People can bring questions.

The next Cops and Clergy meeting is scheduled for May 10.