Source: Religion News Service
USA, October 17, 2001: In October 1978, James Jones got a phone call informing him that his 22-year-old son had been killed in a car accident. "I knew at the time that a phone call was just not the way to deal with a death notification," said Jones, 65, now sheriff of Shelby County, Alabama. It wasn't until March 1995, after the county had had 12 automobile accidents and six suicides in one month, that Jones realized changes had to be made in their method of death notification. In June 1995 he started the Shelby County Law Enforcement Chaplain Program, according to the Birmingham, Ala., Post-Herald. This program has a trained chaplain accompanying a deputy to inform family members of a death, delivering the news promptly and with compassion. Mac Stinson, a retired United Methodist minister who oversees the program, said it has grown since 1995 to also include spiritual guidance for officers and their families. "If a minister has a heart for law enforcement, then he or she contacts us," said Stinson. "We do not recruit them." Such programs are open to members of all faiths, and Hindus trained in ministry and personal counseling can apply for them. To be a chaplain, ministers must go through training to become members of a group called the International Conference of Police Chaplains. Their duties include assisting deputies in handling calls involving highway fatalities, on-the-job deaths, natural disasters and school accidents. They also help personnel of fire and rescue -- they see a lot of deaths, and the chaplains help them "get back behind the wheel." Jones added, "I don't know how law enforcement can survive without a chaplain program."