Village of a Thousand Elders expands to new states

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. (KWQC) - A local program working to ease police and civilian relationships is starting to spread across the country.

The Village of a Thousand Elders was created by Rev. P. Wonder Harris back in 2014. He says the idea behind it is simple.

“It signals a common understanding so that when the police officer approaches the vehicle we've agreed on what this common understand and respect and expectations are going to be,” Harris said.

In this particular case, he is referencing traffic stops. The village has created a decal for its members to put on their vehicles.

A Moline man who has a decal on his car says it is working the way it should.

“As [the officer] approached the car we actually had a pleasant conversation,” said Wendell Booth.

Booth was pulled over in September. He says he had been unintentionally speeding in East Moline. When the officer stopped him he remembered the thing Pastor Harris had preached about traffic stops.

“I turned the lights on, I put my hands on the steering wheel so he could see and I let my window down,” Booth said.

Booth firmly believes his actions and the officer’s conversation lessened tension on both sides. And says he has not always had a positive experience like this in the past.

“I’ve know from being pulled over in Chicago, police pulling you over the tension that existed,” he said.

Illinois State Police Trooper Jason Wilson says the Village's message is one for citizens and officers to embrace.

“Which is personal responsibility, openness to other people's problems and allowing us to start at a respectful level with each other,” Trooper Wilson said.

In fact, his district, district seven, invited Pastor Harris to an annual trooper education officer conference.

“We've had Pastor Harris come in with his organization and hand out the literature and explain what he teaches and where we can go from there,” Wilson said.

Now the yellow, black and orange decal is recognized in 25 states, and it is continuing to grow.

“Just out of the blue I had Nevada reach out to me not more than two months ago and they were asking questions because Pastor Harris had been so proactive,” Trooper Wilson said.

According to Rev. Harris, state troopers in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming have been alerted to recognize the decal.

Rev. Harris says his next focus will be to reach out to counties near major interstates.

Here in the Quad Cities, he says Hampton, Silvis, Moline, East Moline Rock Island, Milan, Coal Valley, Bettendorf and Davenport Police Departments, along with Rock Island and Scott Counties have all been introduced to the program.

The Village also has wristbands for civilians and officers to help ease tensions in the streets. If they choose, law enforcement officers wear a blue and white wristband. Adult civilians wear yellow and black wristbands.