Local faith leaders in Oakland took on what a new commitment to citywide cooperation yesterday as a grieving family buried a 17-year-old drive-by shooting victim, reports the Oakland Tribune. Dozens of clergy leaders gathered at the city’s first official Peace Conference to discuss what many called the crucial role of the clergy in the city’s uphill struggle against violence among teens and young adults and to share new ideas about approaching the problem. The event, organized by Mayor Ron Dellums’ administration, brought faith leaders together with violence prevention organizations and major figures in the criminal justice system. Many solutions offered emphasized an attitude of compassion for at-risk and criminal youths.
“I don’t see my job as being about cops and robbers and putting people in jail,” said police Chief Anthony Batts. “My job is about protecting lives, especially those of young people.” Batts cited the department’s Our Kids Mentorship Program, recalling a recent visit to a church where two officers met with about 30 teen boys on a Saturday morning and told the boys they loved them and cared for their well-being. “Now those kids have those officers’ cell phone numbers, and they know if they need to call at 2 a.m., those officers will pick up the phone and respond,” Batts said. “Mentoring works because it lets kids see positive ways to live.”