Originally created 03/31/97

Pastors on patrol



ORANGEBURG, S.C. (AP) - Police in Orangeburg County are getting a different kind of help in their daily quest to protect the public.

Six local pastors have volunteered to ride patrols with county deputies and the Department of Public Safety. The chaplains hear problems and let officers release the pent-up emotions that come with their high-stress jobs. The pastors also give counseling to crime victims.

The program was born from tragedy. In 1993, Public Safety Sgt. Tommy Harrison was shot and killed on duty. Police chaplains from the Lowcountry drove up to support Harrison's family, fellow officers and the community.

People asked why couldn't Orangeburg have the same support all the time. "I was asked to look into forming a chaplaincy program here," said Bethel Church pastor Butch Farnum, a program coordinator.

The pastors must pass an 80-hour training course at the state Criminal Justice Academy.

Frank Hay, chaplain for The Regional Medical Center here who is also participating, said the course duplicates some of what chaplains are good at, like counseling and stress management.

But the pastors also learn to handcuff suspects and radio for help, something not usually required at Sunday services.

"There are a lot of things we may not want to do, but there may come a time when we would have to," Hay said.

The volunteer law enforcement chaplains carry pagers for emergency situations. They also have scheduled shifts to ride with officers.

A big part of the program gives guidance to those who protect and serve.

"Many of the men and women, who were out there on the front line trying to keep us safe, did not have a spiritual resource," Hay said.

Farnum said the release means that officers don't carry their problems home to their spouses and children.

Cedric Gibb, pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church, says he has gained a deeper appreciation for the anxiety police officers experience. He said one call that came while he was riding with an officer involved a shooting. After officers met to discuss how to handle it, Gibb remembers his adrenaline pumping hard. When it was over, Gibb was relieved.

"When the expectation builds up and the adrenaline starts building up and there's not a discharge or outlet for the officer, there can be problems," he said.

Farnum said the pastors also act as go-between for victims and their families and the police. The chaplains provide information about where to get spiritual or emotional help. The deputy or the chaplain circles a telephone number on the card with the agencies listed on it to let them know where they can get some assistance.