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Police chaplains bridge divides, engage residents

Police officers sometimes take a lot of heat in their role as peacekeepers in today’s world. While the national discussion of police brutality begs reason to have caution, those serving Northbrook are one of many departments utilizing a Police Chaplain Program in an effort to streamline positive working relationships between cops and the community.

Northbrook Police Deputy Chief Scott Dunham said the agency maintains a positive working relationship with those in the community and through the program itself.

“While, there is a high level discussion of police and community relations nationally, local experiences differ so greatly,” he said. “Police Chaplains who come from local houses of worship are able to bring their perspective on law enforcement and the human face of the police back to their respective memberships to help understanding.”

In 2007, the department first introduced its chaplain program believing it would be useful to the agency and community. The initiative allows the Northbrook Police Department to join the ranks of the International Corporation of Police Chaplains, a group whose history dates back to the ‘70s.

The program primarily is geared toward lending itself to members of the agency as a trusted ear, as well as providing counseling, pastoral care and crisis services to the community.

Responsibilities include efforts to assist with suicide incidents, counsel law enforcement officers and their families, and serve as liaison with other clergy in the community, among other duties.

The initiative in Northbrook is currently staffed by two spiritual leaders, Rabbi Meir Moscowitz and Rev. James Braband, in addition to the support provided by the counseling services department for Northbrook Police.

Rabbi Meir Moscowitz has been serving the Northbrook community as a spiritual leader the last 13 years. He said the efforts of Police Chaplain program, in working to create peaceful relations between cops and the community, is notable in curving perceptions that officers are only about law and order.

“There was a complicated death situation where officers wanted a Chaplain to come,” he said, noting how he would extend his assistance. “One week later, I bumped into [those involved in the situation] later at the supermarket. Once in a while, you have those encounters. It makes the job that much more worthwhile.”

Around 2005, Moscowitz started devoting time toward the police chaplain program, after a colleague of his invited him to attend an ICPC event. He said he doesn’t regret his decision to extend his services to the community.

“[Initiatives like the police chaplain program] are not often found in the headlines,” he said. “I see firsthand how much of a difference can be made. I found this program and the connection was made.”

He added that it’s important to know that spiritual leaders working in the program offer their services to the community on a 24/7 on-call basis.

He said while he sees his role as being a very demanding and intense job, the feeling he gets from supporting those around him is all the more rewarding.

Dunham said it brings great meaning to have chaplains working on staff alongside officers to build and maintain relationships with spiritual leaders.

“The chaplains are available to discuss issues on a clergy to clergy basis with any spiritual leaders in Northbrook that may wish their input,” he said. “The chaplains’ relatively intimate knowledge of the inside of a police department can be valuable in providing the chaplains perspective of the demands of the job and why things may be done the way they are regarding incidents that touch their respective memberships.”

The police department hopes that initiatives, such as the police chaplain program, can help Northbrook in continuing to foster positive working relationships between cops and the rest of the community.

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