Policies on When We Call the Police Under Review

by Michelle Hunt, Right Relations Committee

In June of 2018, our congregation approved the 8th UU Principle:

“We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote: journeying toward spiritual wholeness by working to build a diverse multicultural Beloved Community by our actions that accountably dismantle racism and other oppressions in ourselves and our institutions.”

This principle reflects our congregation’s commitment to racial justice and to dismantling racism. Earlier in the church year, the Board asked the Racial Justice Ministry (RJM) and the Right Relations Committee (RRC) to review church documents for references to calling the police because instances of policing seem to be influenced by systemic racism and, in some cases, there may be more appropriate resources.

RJM and RRC formed a task force to develop and implement the changes. This task force has found references to calling the police in the Disruptive Behavior Procedures and in the church’s Safety Manual. Language to mitigate that first instinct to call the police has been developed. We are scheduling Listening Circles to ask for input from the congregation, and specific ministries and committees. The task force benefited from the questions and suggestions we got from the Caring Ministry and the Safety Committee, members of which were the first to participate in a listening circle.

Going forward, the task force is planning de-escalation training and compiling a list of community resources who could help in specific situation.

The revised language for use in policies and procedures follows:
Although our preference is to resolve our differences respectfully and within our own community, an immediate response may be required when the behavior is more serious than a violation of our UUCWC Covenant. The Minister, staff person, or lay leader should first request that the behavior stop immediately, ask the person to leave, or suspend the event entirely until the meeting or gathering can safely resume.

However, if the perceived threat to physical, emotional, mental, and/or spiritual health persists, calling 911 may be appropriate. To avoid the risk of escalation, be clear about the situation, i.e., the police will react differently to an unauthorized person taking a child and someone who is having an emotional episode.

We will be scheduling more listening circles soon. We respectfully ask that you join us.

RJM/RRC Task Force: Maria Barrata, Denny Rogers, Loren McAlister, Dave Thomas, and Michelle Hunt.