FPU faculty member travels to California capitol to support restorative justice

The words of a literary giant accompanied a Fresno Pacific University faculty through California capitol corridors April 23.

“Mark Twain is credited with saying there are two things one should never seen being made: sausage and legislation,” said Ruth-Heffelbower, graduate faculty and member of the Center for Peacemaking and Conflict Studies. Ruth-Heffelbower was in Sacramento to try and influence a bill being considered by the State Senate that would better prepare “first responders” (police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians) to handle terrorist attacks.

Working with the Friends Committee on Legislation (FCL), Ruth-Heffelbower supported including restorative justice training in the program. “This way first responders would do their daily work in ways that respected the people they worked with, creating a climate of cooperation and trust that would make it less likely a terrorist could hide within that community,” he said.

His goal was to testify before the Committee on Public Safety, but the hearing was canceled. “As we went from office to office and from hearing room to hearing room tracking people down we were in competition with a large American Legion delegation and a very large United Farmworkers delegation for time,” Ruth-Heffelbower said. “We had a variety of good conversations, but weren’t reaching the people we had come to see.”

Ruth-Heffelbower and an FCL representative finally camped out in a key staff member’s office and caught him when he hurried in to retrieve some papers. Interested in what they had to say, at first the staffer didn’t see how it fit into this bill. “After 20 minutes of intense conversation he understood how we saw the bill as a vehicle for some very useful training,” Ruth-Heffelbower said. “I’m hopeful that we can build on the relationship and interest created in that meeting to provide training in restorative justice principles to all of the state’s first responders.”