PARIS — Sheriff Wayne Gallant intends to ask county commissioners to appoint a Catholic priest as the department's chaplain at its meeting Tuesday.
If appointed, the Rev. Gregory Dube, 35, a recent transfer to the parishes in Rumford and Bethel, will be on call to provide support to officers, victims and families per diem.
Duty officers are often presented with people undergoing a huge amount of stress and anxiety after a vehicle crash, structure fire or act of violence, Gallant said. Police may not be in the best position to offer compassion, especially when they are pressed to secure a scene or collect evidence, he said. A chaplain can help fill that gap.
"We're not incorporating religion," Gallant said. "We're just bringing in a compassionate person to help deal with someone's needs in a time of crisis."
Originally from Greene, Dube attended The Catholic University in Washington, D.C. and began working as a chaplain in Maine in 2007.
A certified chaplain with the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, he worked with the Biddeford Police Department between 2007 and 2010 and serves as the chaplain for the Maine Chiefs of Police Association. He was transferred to Oxford County as a pastor this summer.
The Rev. Dube described his role as "a ministry of presence" — to be there for as a source of emotional support, not necessarily as a man of the cloth.
In a state that is sometimes called one of the least religious in the country, the Rev. Dube said there are occasional examples when his aid is turned down — but by and large, his presence is appreciated.
He will not be on call for every emergency, Gallant said. Victims and officers alike often have their own sources of spiritual and moral aid, but the new chaplain will be on call for those who want it.
John B. Rogers, director of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, said chaplains from many faiths are used in law enforcement agencies across the state and are an incredible asset.
Along with helping attend to traumatized individuals, chaplains also help officers with emotional situations such as serving death notifications and functioning as counselors to whom officers can talk in confidence.
"Chaplains are there to help," Rogers said.
"It's comforting for a law enforcement officer to know there is someone there that understands law enforcement and is protected in terms of any sort of statements they have to say."