Little girl leads police officers in prayer

A little girl in Cedar Hill, Texas, stopped two officers during a lunch break to pray with them, highlighting black faith communities' complex responses to discussions of police force and community relations. 

Cedar Hill Police Department Facebook page
A little girl in Cedar Hill, Texas, stopped two officers during a lunch break to pray with them, highlighting black faith communities' complex response to the discussion and protests of the Black Lives Matter movement.

A little girl in the Dallas area interrupted two police officers at lunch with a request they had never heard before. Five-year-old Chloe wanted to pray with them. 

Her dad snapped a photo and shared it with the Cedar Hill Police Department.

"Marshals Herron and Wallace admit they've never had anyone pray with them and that her prayer was so beautiful," the department wrote on the Facebook page Tuesday.

The photo has been shared almost 5,000 times on Facebook and captures black churches' complex response to the discussion over police relations with minority communities. 

Some pastors see the Black Lives Matter protests over police force as the sequel to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. The Rev. Jamal Bryant of Baltimore led protests after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, The Baltimore Sun reported. He became a well-known supporter of Trayvon Martin in 2012, and he spent several weeks protesting in Ferguson, Mo., after the police-involved death of Michael Brown.

Eddie Glaude Jr., a religion professor and Princeton University's chair of the Center for African American studies, also sees black churches as a resource for organizing against police brutality during what he told NPR is "open season" for young black men.

"Churches and ministers ought to find a way to comfort the spirit, not to get us adjusted to the injustice, but to understand that we are justified in our rage and anger," Dr. Glaude told NPR in late 2014. "Black churches have always been and continue to be wonderful resource institutions where we can build capacity in order to speak back and respond to crises."

Other black church leaders are working within the system to increase trust. For the Rev. David Isom of Fairfield, Calif., this meant staying out of a proposed walk-out by black communities for Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2015. He instead organized a unity walk alongside members of a mostly white church that ended at the city's Police Activities League, the Religion News Service reported. He has joined a partnership with other ministers and a local police chief to mentor local youth and assist them with scholarships.

"I am concerned about what has happened to African-American lives – period," he told Religion News Service. "But I don’t think that all police are bad, and I don’t think that all kids are angels."

Rev. Uriel Castrillon, a pastor in Baltimore who also volunteers as a police chaplain has met with a police group that organizes dialogues and prayer meetings between faith leaders and police. He participated in demonstrations in Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray, but when he heard out-of-town protesters inciting violence, he took them aside.  

"We engage in civil dialogue, not attacks on the Police Department," he told the Baltimore Sun. "Otherwise you're compromising the Gospel."

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