DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) - There are now fewer Dayton police officers on the streets than in decades, prompting police to get get creative and enlist the help of a higher power.
It was graduation night Thursday and proud family members filled the room with applause as their loved ones posed for pictures.
You won't find caps or gowns here, but instead, crosses and guns. This graduation is celebrating the first class to complete the Police and Clergy Together or PACT program.
Over the last ten weeks, 20 of our community's faith leaders have been attending weekly classes training to assist Dayton officers.
After graduation, they will pray for the police, do ride-alongs and respond to crisis situations.
"I think that's what many of us are focusing on, how can we in any way help," said Pastor Nan Erbaugh, Lower Miami Church of the Brethren.
Pastor Erbaugh says she's proud of her PACT certificate and learned a lot about herself in the process.
"Well, I learned that I really could fire a .35 Glauck, which for someone in the Church of the Brethren, which is a peace church, I just, at first I was not going to do it," said Erbaugh.
Pastor Erbaugh eventually came around. "I was quite a good shot. I was surprised."
Bishop Mark McGuire says he was also surprised, not with shooting, but with the officers he's gotten to know.
"I think the education the technical knowledge that the cadets get when the go through the academy and they learn. The policy, the rules the regulations, things that we just thought they had frivolous actions, they do what they want to do, just a gun in a car. It's really more than that," said Bishop Mark McGuire, Senior Pastor of Potter's House International Ministries.
And that's something Police Chief Richard Biehl hopes the pastors will take back to their congregations where they can spread the word.
"Policing is ultimately about relationships and we are only as effective as the community that supports us, is willing to step up and be witnesses and willing to partner with us to work on crime problems," said Chief Richard Biehl, Dayton Police Department.
And now that police and clergy have come together, there is hope the community will follow it's faith.
This was a pilot plan, but already officials say they are making plans for a second PACT class that will start in February.
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