"I've been working with them for the last year, just talking with them and doing some counseling. Just spending time with them," McLoughlin said. "My role this year has been trying to work with them, bring some peace and closure and healing."
McLoughlin said he has been approached by officers for counsel in times of crisis, but also in happy times such as the birth of a child.
"Over my past five years in Baltimore, I've gotten to know a lot of police officers. They know they can be open and honest with me," said McLoughlin, who planned to enter the police academy years ago in New York when he was diverted to the seminary.
"I found a lot of police officers who publicly wouldn't admit they are spiritual persons, but privately they express their need for God and spirituality in their life because they never know what's going to happen out there on the street," he said.
Families of victims
Although ministering to officers and their families has been the traditional duty of police chaplains, Mercer wants to expand that role to include the families of murder victims. She intends to start group counseling sessions for families of people who have died violently.
This highlights one of the key qualifications for a prospective chaplain: "We want the chaplains to have a strong counseling background," Mercer said. Clergy are increasingly taking pastoral counseling courses as part of their seminary training, but Mercer wants to find people who have a background in clinical pastoral education, an intensive and accredited counseling program.
The chaplain corps is representative of the city's religious denominations. It includes a Catholic priest, a Greek Orthodox priest, a rabbi and several Protestant ministers. Three of the chaplains are black.
"It's absolutely ecumenical, and I do want to keep the balance," said Mercer, who was ordained a minister in the Temple of God Pentecostal Church and is a member of New Psalmist Baptist Church in West Baltimore.
The best chaplain programs put an emphasis on professional training.
"Sorry to say, in some cases they have the idea of just calling the local pastor and saying, 'Come on over, I need you,' " said Scott of Baltimore County. "Every month we try to have some kind of a training session."
Among the topics are what to do and not to do at a crime scene and how to properly notify a family of the death of a loved one.
Police buffs need not apply.
"Your police buff, in the worst sense of the word, doesn't make a good chaplain," said DeRevere of the International Conference of Police Chaplains. "A cop doesn't want a wannabe in his patrol car. He wants the chaplain to be a chaplain."
Pub Date: 5/10/98