There will be many programs Maricopa Police Chief Patrick Melvin will enact in his fledgling department in months and years to come. So it says something, perhaps, that his reaching out for the proverbial hand of God was first on his list.
At a Sept. 11 meeting at the Global Water facility, Melvin and Public Relations Officer Hal Koozer met with roughly a dozen local ministers of different faiths in an effort to drum up support for a MPD chaplaincy program. Koozer said the start up date for the chaplaincy program would be Jan. 1 – the same time Melvin has pledged to have all three shifts of his department online to provide 24-hour-a-day service to the city.
“This is how important this is to our chief that it is our first program that we are kicking off,” Koozer told the ministers after relaying a story of how he has developed strong relationships with law enforcement chaplains at his previous police departments. “(The) position as a chaplain has helped myself and my companions on many occasions.”
Melvin brought in Terry Green, pastor of Victory Baptist Church in Casa Grande and the sole chaplain assigned by the Department of Public Safety to officers in Pinal County, to speak to the potential candidates. Melvin said he would be using Green’s assistance through the selection and training process to help get his chaplain program off the ground.
Green spoke to the ministers about the differences between a chaplain’s role and that of a pastor and the importance of not trying to become a cop in that chaplain’s role.
“They need someone who can come alongside them outside of their group,” said Green, referring to his position in the law enforcement family as like a favorite uncle, rather than as a part of that brotherhood. “You give up some of your freedom to minister as a chaplain so you can minister another way. Occasionally you will have the chance to share your faith, but for the most part, you will have the opportunity to share your heart.”
Green said even for those, like himself, with past military experience, getting to know the procedures and policies of the individual department, as well as the abbreviations and lingo used by the officers, would be essential in communicating effectively and working fluidly with the department. To go along with that, he said, chaplains must also steel themselves to see some of the sights those officers must endure.
“You’re going to walk on the dark side sometimes... seeing physical brokenness like you’ve never seen unless you’ve been in a war zone,” Green said. “I have helped put sweet little girls and 400-pound men into body bags. You don’t need to be stoic or unemotional, but you need to be able to function... when facing gruesome and horrific scenes.”
Both Green and Maricopa Fire Department Chaplain Rusty Akers spoke to the calming presence the chaplain often has for officers when they show up on the scene of a tragedy.
“I think it is a spiritual presence that brings a peace when you are on the scene of an accident,” Akers said. “There’s not too many lines of work where when everyone else is running away, they run in. It’s a special breed.”
Green said one of the greatest benefits to the chaplaincy program is having contact with officers and citizens whom he may never have met walking through the doors of his church.
“You will be able to help people for whom you have no vested interest,” said Green, quoting from Acts 10 that the role of a chaplain is similar to that of Christ’s, “going throughout the country and helping people.”
Koozer and Melvin passed out application packets to the ministers and will be performing background checks and interviews between now and January before settling on their selections to initiate the program. Until that point, MPD will continue to lean on Akers, Green and Pinal County Sheriff’s Office Chaplain Lt. Chris Ward for any assistance the department may need in grief services.