by ERIN ROLL
The Montclair Police Department will be adding some chaplains to its ranks.
The department is bringing back a chaplain program as part of its community outreach efforts, as well as to assist during times of crisis.
“We’ve had chaplains before, we just haven’t had an actual, formal chaplain in a while,” Lt. Tyrone Williams, head of the department’s Community Services Unit, told the Montclair Local on Friday.
There are a number of reasons why the department is hoping to bring back a clergy program, Williams said. One of them is the ongoing mission to improve the relationship between the police and the community. “With police and community relations, we thought it prudent to reach out to local clergy,” he said. Additionally, he said, the department realized that it did not currently have someone on call to assist with counseling or pastoral care during crisis situations.
On Friday, Feb. 24, Williams said that eight or nine clergy had expressed an interest in acting as a chaplain. He said that those clergy, for the most part were either from houses of worship in Montclair or had a prior connection to the town.
Rabbi David Greenstein from Congregation Shomrei Emunah and the Rev. Ron Gonzalez of Christ Church both indicated to the Montclair Local that they would be participating in the chaplain program.
As of Wednesday, March 1, there was a core group of seven chaplains that had undergone training through the Vineland-based Police Chaplain Program, Officer Paul Rusiniak said in an interview.
They have also undergone background checks, and the department has ordered uniforms for them. There will also be a swearing-in ceremony for the chaplains at a later date.
The two-day training period included an overview of law enforcement life, topics such as suicide prevention and the emotional toll that crime and incidents can take on law enforcement personnel and the community, Rusiniak said.
In the past, the MPD had chaplains serving in a ceremonial role at official functions, or providing pastoral care to officers, Rusiniak said. Now, in addition to those duties, there is going to be more of a focus on getting chaplains out into the community. For example, he said, if there is an incident involving a fatality, a chaplain may assist the officer in notifying the victim’s family and provide counseling if the family requests it.
Additionally, chaplains will be on hand at informal community gatherings like National Night Out and Coffee With a Cop.
The department has drafted a policy outlining the duties of chaplain and what will be expected of them. Williams said that the goal is to have a rotating list of on-call chaplains to call on as needed.
This past Tuesday night, the township council officially passed the ordinance creating the position of chaplain.
The chaplain would serve on a volunteer basis, according to the terms of the ordinance. He or she would be asked to work with the department on death notifications, station house adjustments and other duties, according to the ordinance.
The Police Chaplain Program provides training in fields such as suicide prevention, line-of-duty deaths, the needs of law enforcement families and diversity and sensitivity training, according to the program’s website.
For more information about Montclair’s police chaplain program or to get involved, contact Officer Paul Rusiniak at 973-509-4776 or firstname.lastname@example.org.