By Jeanne Starmack
It all started with a question. Two ministers from local churches and the city’s mayor were walking down Liberty Street at the Memorial Day Parade last May.
The Rev. Dave Garlich of Calvary Baptist Church and the Rev. Ray Ake of Colburg United Methodist Church asked Mayor John Darko how could they help the city.
That’s how the idea for the City Transformation Team was born, and it became official in August — six chaplains now put on bulletproof vests and ride along with police officers to counsel people in crises.
Police can’t often take the time to hold someone’s hand or offer sympathy. They’re trained to respond in certain ways, and that can be off-putting, said Hubbard Police Chief Jim Taafe.
So the chaplains intervene in the midst of shock and grief, holding families back and talking to them as police do their work in the aftermath of a tragedy.
“It was a summer’s day,” the Rev. Luke Oskin of First Baptist Church remembered about one call as the chaplains gathered Tuesday for a meeting at the city building.
“We stepped outside,” he said, so the family couldn’t see their loved one on the stretcher. “I let them talk and reflect on their grief,” he continued.
The chaplains stay in the cruiser on calls, coming out only if the police officer asks them to.
“Before we go on the ride-along, we put on a vest and we’re instructed to stay out of harm’s way,” said the Rev. Mr. Garlich.
They help with welfare checks on vulnerable people — the disabled and the elderly.
They appear in the aftermath of domestic violence, telling victims where to turn for help.
They counsel people with addictions, and will help stranded travelers.
Sometimes, they even help the police officers when they need someone to talk to, said Taafe.
“Our purpose is being a friend to police, so on ride-alongs, we get a chance to meet the person,” Mr. Garlich said.
Hubbard Sgt. Chris Moffitt said police can take advantage of having someone to listen to them when the job becomes aggravating.
“They’re a great resource for us,” Moffitt said. “And if we get people who need help, we can pass out their numbers,” he said. “I’ve used their numbers a lot.”
Taafe said he “thinks the world” of the chaplains.
“And it all started with a question: ‘What can we do to help?’” Taafe said.