Faith and police together

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HERTFORDSHIRE, England — Members of the U.K.-based Police Pagan Association were involved this week in the launch of Faith and Police Together. This new initiative to link the faith and policing communities was kicked off at Westminster Hall in the houses of Parliament on April 18, hosted by MP Holly Lynch. PPA representative Andrew Pardy was invited to speak on the work of the PPA in line with recent policing policies.

On the website of Faith and Police Together is a statement of purpose: “#FaithAndPoliceTogether is a collaboration of several faith based organisations [which] each have a long standing track record of working alongside police and statutory bodies with outcomes that have helped towards wider community transformation within police related priorities.

“We believe that faith is a massive force for good and by promoting the concept of police and faith groups working together we can: help bring about community cohesion; help serve some of the most vulnerable within our society; offer various levels of support to those working within the police force; equip and support volunteers to deliver projects that bring about community and individual transformation; help faith communities offer insight and intelligence around policing issues.”

The launch, which involved a range of faith groups, included discussion of issues including the faith response to disasters such as the Grenfell apartment block fire, and a number of grassroots faith-led projects.

Pardy wrote on the PPA’s Facebook page, “It is always worth representing Paganism at such events when we are invited to do so; it raises the profile of our Pagan officers, our Pagan communities and Paganism as an established and ever-growing faith alongside other religions, and shows what we are capable of when we work together, and highlights our valuable contributions to society.

“It is always a pleasure to represent Pagans across the U.K., especially when it is met with polite enquiry and positive comments like today, and exemplifies the many projects and initiatives that we are working on that coincide with similar projects from other faith communities. 
As I was asked to speak on our work in line with current policing priorities I concentrated on XRW (extreme right wing) groups who use Paganism as a guise to further their racist, homophobic and misogynistic ideals. . . . the recording and thorough investigation of sexual offences against men and women under the guise of Pagan ritual (and the support of victims); and educating the police around the use and possession of [ritual tools] within a Pagan context, and advising the Pagan community about their rights with regards to stop & search in light of the recent reported rise in knife crime.”

The National Police Pagan Association is a registered diversity staff support association working alongside the National Police Chiefs Council, the College of Policing, and the Home Office in supporting Pagan police officers and staff and improving the relationships between the Pagan community and the police service.

A description of the organization can be found on its web site, and includes the statement, “The government and the police service are at the forefront of diversity, and they continually strive to better represent the public that they serve. Paganism is a perfect example of a religion that has, by its very definition, embodied equality and diversity in all things.

“The PPA aims to promote and support Pagans in the police service, by working with others regardless of sex, gender, age, faith, ethnicity, sexuality, nationality, disability, race or cultural heritage, and by promoting diversity as a source of celebration, not discrimination. Evidence shows that an ever-increasing proportion of society is Pagan and that the police service needs to embrace Paganism in order to represent their communities effectively.

“The PPA [members] will enhance the relationship between the police service and the communities that they serve, by working with partner agencies, partaking in community events, public surgeries and training in a bid to reduce crime and the fear of crime in the UK. The PPA is primarily a faith support group, but [members will] strive to work with everyone towards the betterment and understanding of the world around us, our communities, and those living in them.”

In addition to interfaith efforts, PPA organizers also work to combat hate crimes against Pagans, and provides valuable information to regular police forces about Pagan practices. It provides first point-of-contact officers for each area, with whom police officers or members of the public can liaise. An instance in the press is the case of a report to Somerset police regarding a meeting of the ‘Klu Klux Klan’ which turned out – when investigated by Police Pagan Association membe Andy Stuart – to be a Druidic gathering.

Stuart stated, “I’m proud to be a Pagan. I’m proud to be a Druid. I’m proud to be a police officer. I’m even prouder to be able to say that I can be all those three things at the same time.”

If a Pagan gets arrested, for example, and the station concerned needs information about them, the Southwestern police in Southwestern England can ring Stuart. If there are questions about Pagan rituals or practices, Stuart can give accurate information and advice. As community beat manager, Stuart acts as a liaison officer between various elements of the community, including the South West’s many Pagans. His efforts are an example of the work done by the Police Pagan Association locally, in addition to the national interfaith initiatives such as the Faith and Police Together launch.