"God Squad" in Miami

July 23, 2000

Source: The Houston Chronicle

On July 23, 2000, The Houston Chronicle reported that the Miami-Dade police department is recruiting 20 Bible-carrying clergy to ride with them in police cars. "The recruitment drive is an effort to save Miami-Dade's flagging police chaplaincy program, which started 11 years ago with a rabbi, priest and Baptist minister, and lost steam as pastors retired or moved on." The hope is that at least two ministers will be hired and trained to serve as "volunteers in each of the county's eight districts." Irving Heller, assistant director of the police department, wants the clergy to "help officers handle sensitive issues in their jobs and work with clinical psychologists in the department." Chaplains can be an important addition to police departments, since clergy with chaplains' badges can "help police break the news of deaths to families, give whistle-blowers a trusted confidant to turn to and crime victims a shoulder to cry on. In some cases, chaplains can even defuse tense situations by appealing to the morality and spirituality of perpetrators. 'The clergyman does not present a threat,' said Rabbi Phineas Weberman, pastor of Ohev Shalom Congregation of Miami Beach, who is helping organize the interfaith effort for Miami-Dade police. 'Clergy can act as a mediator between groups. People feel more comfortable with them.'"

See also: Interfaith, Civic