Blairsville Program Pairs Cops, Clergy
BLAIRSVILLE - Authorities in Blairsville have launched a new faith-based program designed to encourage police and community involvement, as well as bring the community together.
(Originally published Tuesday, May 19, 2009)
The Blairsville police department and Blairsville Mayor John Zedick introduced a communitywide chaplaincy program at a news conference Monday.
The borough police department has enlisted the help of pastors from approximately 12 churches in the Blairsville area to go out on calls with police officers and offer assistance
```Chaplaincy' comes from a French term meaning `from the chapel,''' said Tim Monroe, pastor of the United Presbyterian Church of Blairsville. ``We literally bring pastoral care to situations to support officers or those in crisis.''
The pastor is there to counsel the victims or accused and to generally help mediate the situation, if need be. All contacts the pastor may make are held in strict confidence.
``Likewise, officers have the opportunity in private to talk with chaplains,'' Zedick said. ``That's so important as far as police is concerned.''So far, the chaplains have attended crime watch meetings, assisted with counseling and participated in a ride-a-long initiative during which they were given the opportunity to get to know the officers and see firsthand the problem areas in the community.
``After the deaths of the officers in Pittsburgh, many spouses and children worry about what's going to happen to Dad or to Mom,'' said Harold Hicks of the Harvest Anglican Church. ``We will be there to listen and to share wisdom of the Lord.''
Police Chief Don Hess said Blairsville is the only local law agency using the program.
``In bigger cities it is being utilized,'' Hess said. ``We wanted to open it up to our residents and police officers.'' The idea of the program came to Hess when the crime rates increased in Blairsville. He had been involved with chaplaincy programs at larger departments in the past.
The pastors wear shirts and jackets that identify them as such while out with the police officers, and they will soon be given business cards to distribute.
According to Zedick, if a need for a chaplain somewhere else in Indiana County arises, one will be made available.
``Not only will this have a positive effect on officers,'' Zedick said, ``but also on the community.'