Police Chaplaincy Academy

We are getting there. But we need more chaplains.

The Baltimore City Police Department is reaching out to the faith communities to help turn things around.  "It takes a village to raise a child" and that village has to include the faith communities also.  Baltimore is a black city and traditionally the church has been the strongest element in the communities, but that is not the case today.

The Police Commissioner wants us out in the streets in April.  We were planning for the summer.  So now we have to move much faster.

LTC Russell said that when we walk out of our places of worship, people need to know us.  I do know that many of the neighbors around my church know me and many of my neighbors at home know me.  But that might be because I stand out.  Let's face it!  How many black clergy do you see in a Russian or Ukrainian or Greek or Serbian or Romanian church?  Also, how many clergy do you see today walking around with the Roman collar?  I could write paragraphs on this easily.  But let me share just one example.

Several years ago as I was walking up Franklin Street towards the main branch of the library, Tobay saw me a block away and waited for me to walk that block so that she could ask me to pray for her.  She knew that I was clergy because she saw the collar.

There are 120 churches in East Baltimore and in the same four-square mile area are the most homicides and shootings.  The City of full of trauma and our police officers are also traumatized, but we don't think about this.  Divorce rate and alcoholism is high among police officers.  Of the 640,000 people in Baltimore, about ten percent go to church.

Obviously, we have our job cut out for us and, like the Marines, we are looking for a few good men [and women], about 200 to be more exact.  We are looking for people who have a relationship equity in their communities.  We will be riding with the police officers and we are asked to donate 20 hours a month to the program.

I have done ride-along in the past and it has been a great experience for me.  I encourage everybody to do it so that you can get an insight into some of the issues that police officers face on a daily basis.

At the meeting it was a blessing for me to sit next to Rabbi Chesky Tenenbaum who is also teaching Jewish culture at the Police Academy.  Rabbi Blackman also attended the meeting and sat on the other side of him.  I had an opportunity to chat with both and it was fruitful in my estimation.  Both Rabbi Tenebaum and I are "correct" handed and so were the two on my left.  So we had four people in a row who are correct handed.

With the exception of the two Jewish rabbis, two Lutherans, and me, the other chaplains are all fundamental Protestants or non-liturgical Protestants.  One man told me, "I was saved in ...."  This statement is completely foreign to the mentality of the Orthodox Church and of the Roman Catholic Church.  To us, salvation is a life-long process and no Orthodox who is steeped in the traditions of his Church would make a statement like that.  There are stories of very, very holy men on their death beds and people ask them what are they doing and they would reply that they are repenting. Repenting is not necessarily sad or mournful. 


 

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LTC Melvin Russell

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Chaplain Edwin Spuller is a chaplain at the Baltimore City Detention Center.

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Fr. Deacon Michael and Rabbi Chesky Tenenbaum are both "correct handed."

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