Delivering families the news of a death or a severe accident isn’t the easiest task for law enforcement officials, so dozens of departments across New Jersey have enlisted outside help to deal with these and other sensitive situations.

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Police chaplains are serving as a bridge between law enforcement and families. They’re trained in crisis intervention and are on call 24-7 as volunteers.

Towns throughout New Jersey – Jackson, Maple Shade, Millville and Stafford, for example – use the chaplains as emotional backup on calls that may be difficult for a cop to handle on their own.

“We’re there for anything and everything,” said Gary Holden, CEO of The Police Chaplain Program of New Jersey.

A chaplain, who must also be a credentialed clergyperson, could be utilized on a domestic call or when a youth is arrested for a severe crime. Perhaps when they’re most needed, though, is in the event of a sudden death.

“We would do death notifications,” Holden said. “We would go with the police to notify the family.”

It takes a special person to deliver this kind of news, as well as a special approach. Holden said their training devotes a course completely to death notifications.

The New Jersey group offers an intense, two-day training program for would-be chaplains. In the past three years, according to Holden, they’ve trained up to 600 people.

About 50 New Jersey police departments have a chaplain program in place, with dozens more pending.

Although chaplains are members of a certain faith, they serve on a non-sectarian basis in the field.

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