GASTONIA, N.C. (WBTV) - A small group of local law enforcement officials, community members and clergy members from across Gaston County met at the Rotary Pavilion in downtown Gastonia Monday night to sign a special covenant.
The agreement has been in place for a few years now and connects the clergy, law enforcement and citizens’ coalition (GC3). It serves as a pledge to bring the local community together across lines of race, creed, class, gender and location.
“We are very proud of the fact that we have tried to build a bridge over one of the divides that threatens to divide us in this nation but perhaps not here in Gaston County,” explained Richard Boyce, a minister with Union Presbyterian Seminary in Gastonia.
Boyce and several other people took turns signing the covenant Monday night.
“We’ve been able to meet each other and learn and see that it’s not just about the uniform you wear or being a pastor or a prominent citizen in the community. It’s that we’re all human being and we get to know each other,” said Travis Brittain, assistant chief of the Gastonia Police Department.
Local leaders explained that not only does the covenant serve as an official acknowledgement of a county-wide partnership, it also allows the community members to lean on one another in tough times if there’s a community crisis.
“When issues happen in our city we all can come together on our own accord, and try to solve it in a diplomatic and God-fearing way,” said Reverend Dario Jackson of the St. John Missionary Baptist Church in Gastonia.
Gaston County Sheriff Alan Cloninger noted that the covenant specifically helps in tense situations involving law enforcement officers and members of the community
“This gives us the opportunity to get ahead of difficult issues, but it also shows a partnership,” explained Cloninger.
For example, after a recent, deadly police chase, law enforcement in Gaston County met with frustrated community members inside of a local church.
“It is dangerous to go out as law enforcement officers. Unfortunately, it’s dangerous to go out in large parts of the country with black skin. That’s not right and we believe we’ve got a better model here and we’ve come together as white and black clergy and as white and black law enforcement to say ‘let’s do better here in Gaston County’,” said Boyce.