7 in Clergy Join Police Chaplain Program : Support: They will be ‘visible and available’ in ministering to crime and accident victims and their families and Santa Ana police officers under stress.

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In an effort to provide emotional support both for crime victims and for police under stress, the Police Department on Thursday swore in seven clergy members to its new chaplain program.

“They’re going to be visible and available,” said Sgt. Gail Clark, officer in charge of field operations and coordinator of the program. “They could be involved in counseling officers, employee counseling, and in situations in the field, where it would appear a clergy person could offer immediate support to a victim or family, such as in times of tragedy.”

Initiated by Police Chief Paul M. Walters, the program will employ the services of local clergy from several denominations to help officers who may be facing intense job stress and crime or accident victims and their families.


“Unless you’ve been a police officer and been on the street, it’s very hard to understand the emotional and physical drain,” Walters said.

Clark said the clergy occasionally will accompany officers on patrol and will be available on call. Most of the seven volunteer clergy--six men and one woman--come from churches in Santa Ana.

One of the participants, Rabbi Shelton Donnell of Temple Beth Sholom, said the program also will give the clergy a better understanding of issues affecting the community. “It allows us to be proactive instead of reactive,” he said.

Katherine Gara, pastor of the Spurgeon United Methodist Church, said she feels that a woman’s presence may be more welcome in some instances, such as crimes against women.

The other participants are Robert Barnett, pastor of the Seekers Church in Fullerton; Nua Laulemaga, pastor of the Samoan First Christian Church; Joseph King of the First Baptist Church; Lt. Lee Lescano, Orange County coordinator for the Salvation Army, and Warren Johnson of the Salvation Army’s Orange County branch.

Msgr. John Sammon is the official chaplain of the Santa Ana police, but the new chaplains will do more front-line work while Sammon will still be included in many ceremonial functions, Clark said. Local police and fire departments, including the county Sheriff’s Department, call on Sammon during crises, but the new program will be Santa Ana’s own group.


Other police departments in Orange and Los Angeles counties have expressed interest in starting similar programs, including Fullerton, which expects to start its chaplain program within the next few months.