South Dakota chaplains help police deliver bad news

Posted: Friday, September 14, 2001

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) -- Seven clergy have volunteered to help Sioux Falls law enforcement officers when they must inform families that a loved one is dead, hurt or in trouble.

The program started when Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead told the Rev. Brian Mortenson that he and his officers sometimes felt they could do more to help families touched by tragedy. Mortenson agreed to help, and the program has expanded to the Sioux Falls Police Department.

The seven pastors from various denominations, from Lutheran to Church of Christ, take turns responding. They help officers with death notifications, serious accidents, family disturbances and other situations.

''Officers do the best they can to deal with the situation, but they have to be very businesslike,'' Dean Patterson of Sioux Valley Church of Christ, one of the volunteers. ''We're there to ease the shock, relieve the officer of things and let him go back to his role as a police officer.''

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