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Wednesday 19 January 2022
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Rochester Police and Religious Leaders Hold Conference to Build Trust

Rev. Lewis Stewart

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals because of their religious affiliation in terms of hiring, firing, and any other conditions of employment. Unfortunately, U.S. law hasn’t always been effective in preventing religious discrimination outside of the workforce.

To combat discrimination and to mend the relationship between law enforcement and the religious community in Rochester, police chiefs and faith leaders announced last week that they have begun a collaborative project in the community.

Representatives from both sides met on Wednesday for the first of several conferences intended to build trust among participants.

“This was a first step … to positively initiate and establish open lines of communication,” said Rev. Lewis Stewart, president of United Christian Leadership Ministries.

Stewart said during the news conference on Friday that the meeting was “the first of its kind not only in the region, but, we believe, in New York State.”

The participants agreed that the goal of building trust between the religious community and the Rochester police force was achieved.

“We learned about each other. We came away from the meeting with a better understanding,” said Chief Mark Henderson of the Brighton Police Department. “But it was clear to me and others at the conference this was only a first step.”

The explosive confrontations that took place between law enforcement and civilians in Ferguson and Baltimore were what inspired Rochester community leaders to take preventative action by opening up the lines of communication.

Reverend Stewart noted that he has been critical of Rochester police practices in the past.

“And yet I’m willing to rock my biases, shed them, set that aside, and sit down and talk responsibly with people in law enforcement,” he said.

The group plans to meet again in January and, this time, to involve a greater number of young people. They intend to continue the dialogue as well as to discuss the details of possible programs and initiatives.

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