Lexington police announced a new program in which representatives from Lexington's clergy will serve as volunteer chaplains to offer emotional and spiritual help for victims at crime and accident scenes.
The Community Chaplaincy Program includes a Chaplaincy Response Team initially made up of a dozen volunteer clergy members, who will be on call 24 hours a day to assist police. More members could be added to the response team later, said Lexington police Chaplain Donovan Stewart.
Officers at fires, wrecks, suicides or other emergencies can request a chaplain any time they think a victim, family member or police officer needs counseling and help, Chief Ronnie Bastin said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
Volunteer chaplains will rotate and serve on the response team a week at a time.
"This is important because we often encounter people on some of the worst days of their lives," Bastin said. "As police, we're not always capable of providing the level of assistance or comfort that is needed."
The program, which started Monday, will increase services to the community "in a way that isn't going to cost money," Bastin said.
No volunteer chaplain had been called out as of Tuesday afternoon.
Team volunteers include representatives from various faiths across the city, Stewart said.
Police officials said the program has been in the works for more than two years.
One of the volunteers, Rabbi Marc Kline from Temple Adath Israel, said the program will be helpful to victims and officers who might have been "scarred by some of the things they face every day."
The volunteers have received training, including ride-alongs with police officers, to help prepare them for what they might find on the street.
The Rev. C.B. Akins, pastor at First Baptist Church Bracktown, said he was accompanying police when a shooting happened a block away.
"It was eye-opening ... to see how officers have to quickly change ... to dealing with a situation of life and death," Akins said.
Another volunteer, Rector Lauri Brock from the Episcopal Church of St. Michael, said the new program "will bring healing and hope to those who have gone through a traumatic time."