By Aaron Blevins, 5/10/2012
Religion and Law Enforcement Overlap in Chaplain Services
The Los Angeles Police Department civilian employee went into cardiac arrest shortly after chaplain De’Wana Hubbard had left the Verdugo Hills Hospital in the foothills above Glendale.
The civilian had fallen ill, and the diagnosis called for surgery. During the procedure, unexpected complications surfaced. When the individual’s heart stopped beating, the patient’s mother frantically contacted Hubbard.
She, however, had already traveled quite a distance, and fog was coming in. She was afraid the freeway would be shut down soon. The Catholic family, however, needed services. Hubbard contacted a nearby rabbi, and he was able to respond.
“When the rabbi came down that hallway, [the mother] didn’t see Protestant, Catholic or a Jew. She saw God with meat on him,” Hubbard said. “She just collapsed in his arms.”
Though she couldn’t assist on that particular occasion, Hubbard, who works as a detective at LAPD’s Wilshire Division, said it is symbolic of the department’s chaplain services, which offers faith-based services to department employees and officers regardless of denomination.
“I’m here to serve,” she said. “I’m a servant. I’m not here to prophesize or impose my views.”
Hubbard, a Pentecostal, has been a sworn chaplain for 11 years, spending the last 8 years at Wilshire Division. When she was approached about the chaplaincy, she wasn’t aware that the department had such services.
“As I began to make inquiries, doors started to open,” Hubbard said. “I believe chaplaincy is a calling.”
She said the key is to listen to a person’s request and determine if there is an immediate need. Employees and officers can seek her help for a host of reasons, including sickness, injury, death or marriage problems. Hubbard said the chaplain must be peaceful, loving and kind.
“Most of the time, people want a kind word, a kind smile,” she said. “They want the human touch.”
Generally, the department is notified of an employee’s need for chaplain services, and the chaplains are dispatched based on the area in which they live or the division in which they work. The chaplain will then report back to the department with the individual’s requests.
Brigitte Lawrence, a police service representative, needed Hubbard to be a shoulder to cry on, especially when her husband, Carlton, was beginning his 17-month cancer battle. He had retired from Wilshire Division as a detective.
“She would see me and pull me aside,” Lawrence said. “It was very helpful.”
She said her husband was only hospitalized once, and when he was, a chaplain was with her at the hospital almost every time she visited. When Lawrence’s husband died, Hubbard was out of town, but Southwest Division chaplain Dena Johnson stepped in.
“They were just a Godsend,” she said.
Johnson helped Lawrence plan the service, and helped secure a facility for a memorial. Afterward, Lawrence said she sent a letter to Chief Charlie Beck thanking him for providing the service, for which she was very grateful.
“It’s very unique,” she added.
Sgt. Chris Curry, who worked at Wilshire Division before being transferred recently, needed, in essence, an assistant during his time of need. His sister died on the East Coast last July, and he had to coordinate various things, such as contacting his brother in Afghanistan, while maintaining his affairs locally.
“I never really had a chance to grieve,” Curry said.
Therefore, Hubbard’s assistance was of the utmost importance, though her tasks were small. Curry said the littlest of things, like remembering the name of the church in Washington, D.C., or helping send a wreath, were extremely helpful.
“It was one less thing I had to worry about going right,” he added.
Curry, however, also witnessed the lighter side of chaplaincy, as Hubbard officiated at his wedding on March 11. He said Hubbard went over the entire ceremony and worked with his bride, a civilian. She knew the nuances of the department, and was able to meld two sets of family members together with traditional wedding rituals.
“The chaplain corps as a whole is just invaluable,” Curry said.
Wilshire Division officer Mark Hodson is of no faith, and he has not utilized the department’s chaplain services. However, he has worked under Hubbard and said the chaplain corps is “awe-inspiring.”
“I’ve had many heart to heart conversations with her, and I think the department would be at a loss without those services,” Hodson said. “I can truly say … it is really inspiring.”
Hubbard said being a chaplain has improved her abilities as a detective. She is more aware of resources available to residents she encounters, and that support can keep a situation — like a parent-child dispute — from spiraling downward or becoming a police issue.
“I look at things a little more globally,” Hubbard said.
Officer Mike McCarty, the department’s chaplain coordinator, said the services have existed inside the LAPD since at least 1945. He said they were originally requested to assist with police funerals.
“From there, it started to grow,” McCarty said, adding that chaplains began doing counseling, baptisms, weddings, funerals and prayers at LAPD events and services.
The department has 57 chaplains, with some still in training or acting as reserves. Most are volunteers, but officers can occasionally work in both capacities. The group is governed by the LAPD Chaplain Advisory Board, which meets monthly.
“It’s a great program,” McCarty said. “It’s needed. They do a lot of good things, and they do it for free most of the time.”