Volunteer chaplains to counsel BART police after trauma

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BART police will have spiritual counselors to advise them under a new volunteer chaplaincy program beginning Tuesday.

BART police Chief Kenton Rainey will swear in four local clergy members at noon Tuesday in Oakland, marking the first time the transit agency has offered the service for its police officers and their families, according to agency spokesman Jim Allison.

The chaplains will offer their services following traumatic events, such as the Jan. 1, 2009, fatal shooting of 22-year-old Oscar Grant by a BART police officer at the Fruitvale station in Oakland.

The chaplains will also provide for “general spiritual and emotional needs when requested,” according to a statement from BART.

Chaplains on duty will also be available to assist victims of crime, if requested, according to Allison.

BART police were asking for a chaplaincy program before Grant’s shooting, Allison said.

“It wasn’t until we had a change of leadership at the Police Department that it got any traction,” Allison said.

“I would imagine that it would have helped, though, had it been in place” when Grant was shot, he added.

Rainey was sworn in as police chief last July, following the retirement of former Chief Gary Gee. He leads a Police Department of 296 employees, 206 of whom are sworn officers.

The chaplains, who represent various religious backgrounds and will not be paid for their services, will wear BART police uniforms with chaplain insignias while on duty, according to BART.

Allison said the uniforms would be “a minimal cost.”

Tom Radulovich, a BART director who serves on the Police Review Committee, said that while all BART employees already have counseling services offered through the agency’s Employee Assistance Program, the chaplaincy program “will be a nice complement to that.”

Grant’s shooting “certainly added some urgency” to start the program, Radulovich noted.

“It seems to be long overdue,” he said. “The police definitely wanted it, and it’s one of many things we’re trying to do to make policing work better at BART.”

aburack@sfexaminer.com

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