HOUSTON – When Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland realized just how damaging that videotaped beating of Chad Holley was involving HPD officers – he immediately turned to one group: Ministers against Crime.
A year later in another meeting, the police chief dropped a bombshell on that same group. Rev. Robert Jefferson is a member. He says, “We will not be able to talk against city government or the police or the Mayor.” That’s because members of Ministers against Crime say Chief McClelland announced his department will no longer recognize their group. However, ministers were told they could join a new group of clergy created by HPD – which follows a new book of rules created by HPD. Some members of Ministers against Crime say this move is likely the brainchild of Mayor Annise Parker. They say Parker has an issue with the ministers because they speak out against certain lifestyles. Jefferson says, “I think it’s an attempt by the Mayor to stop us from saying things we want to say in this city.” Pastor Tanya Davis says, “We’re suppose to be silent about men sleeping with men, women sleeping with women, we’re suppose to accept it. Okay, I accept you as a human being, but I have to take you to the word.”
Ministers against Crime wasn’t the only group told they would have to join the new Police and Clergy Alliance if they wanted to remain active as a volunteer with HPD. Ronald Francavilla is part of another clergy group also being merged. “You have no problem limiting what you say publicly while working with the police department? Not at all because I don’t know all the facts they do and that’s what their job is.”
When asked if the claims of retaliation by Mayor Parker were the reason for the new police clergy group, officials with the department say that is not the case. Officials with HPD say the new group will bring every member of the clergy on the same page and more inclusion to all groups.
Mayor Parker’s representative released this statement:: “HPD has created a new organization called the Police and Clergy Alliance that will be officially affiliated with HPD and open to any minister who wants to participate.
In the past, there were as many as 10 different ministers against crime organizations operating individually and representing different religions and ethnic groups. Some had exclusive qualifications for membership, including the exclusion of women, that were not in line with the city’s commitment to inclusiveness. Having one umbrella organization is a more unifying approach that recognizes Houston’s diversity and sends a clear message that HPD is open to working with all groups. It will also allow for better coordination of volunteer efforts by HPD’s clergy liaison team.”