The Leesburg Police Department has brought back its chaplains program.
It is the first time the department has had a chaplain program in almost 20 years ago. Pastor George Hammond, of Bethel Presbyterian Church in Leesburg, was a part of the program that ran from 1995 to 2000 under former police chief Keith Stiles. He now joins the new group of chaplains, which also includes the Rev. Daniel Velez-Rivera, of St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church in Leesburg; and Pastor Jason Lamb, of Rising Church, also in Leesburg. Deacon Holly Hanbach, also of St. Gabriel’s, is undergoing training to join the program.
Hammond said he was excited about the program starting back up, as he saw how helpful it was to officers in its first iteration.
“There were times when they felt like it was helpful to have a chaplain on site,” Hammond said.
His work as a chaplain included coming along on ride-alongs to give officers an opportunity to talk about things they were dealing with. They would also accompany officers on death notifications, to assist both them and the families.
For Chief Gregory Brown, bringing back the chaplaincy program achieves a number of goals.
“The reinstatement of the chaplain program not only supports our mission to provide superior customer service to our community, businesses, and visitors, but also supports our officers internally by offering a unique spiritual resource,” he said.
For Lamb, becoming a part of the chaplain program is about “being a resource in any way I can.”
“It’s an opportunity to serve the town and those who serve the town well,” he said. “It boils down to a desire to serve and love in any way that’s required. The opportunity came up and it was a no-brainer.”
Lamb comes to the program with a bit of special experience, serving as chaplain for different sports teams and as the current fellowship director for the Tuscarora High School boys’ basketball team.
Velez-Rivera is the latest chaplain to be commissioned, and the first Latino member. In a statement, he noted his belief that “service to God doesn’t stop at [the] congregation or with members of [the] church affiliation”, rather that he was ordained to serve all people of God. It’s another opportunity for both Velez-Rivera and the greater congregation to partner with “diverse community organizations to better serve the community.”