BRIDGEWATER, NJ - The Bridgewater Township police department will have its chaplain, or chaplains.

The town council unanimously approved an ordinance Nov. 5 to create the office of police chaplain, who will be of service to the police chief, his officers, members of their families and Bridgewater Township residents.

Prior to the ordinance’s approval, Mayor Matthew Moench thanked Bridgewater Police Chief Paul Payne and the council for considering the measure. He said communication with the public is important for the police, and that the COVID-19 pandemic sidelined some of that effort.

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Moench added that police outreach to local religious communities has been occurring twice per month, with religious leaders having the chance to speak with law enforcement officials on any subject, which served to build up trust while also acting as a conduit into the greater Bridgewater community.

A prerequisite for a potential police chaplain in Bridgewater is that he or she must be a current clergy member. The chaplain will not hold a rank or collect a salary, but will be “a duly credentialed or commissioned (licensed or ordained) minister, priest, rabbi or other recognized leader of a religious body, according to the ordinance.”

The police chief will appoint one or more chaplains, who will also serve as volunteer members of the police department and as staff assistants to the chief. Duties for chaplains, who will wear a special insignia while on the job, will range from counseling police officers who may have personal problems, to assisting in programs and plans for youthful offenders, and conducting memorial services.

Moench added that the chaplain position will be provided at minimal cost to the township, with a stipend for the program, and will also provide numerous benefits to both the police department and the Bridgewater community as a whole.

Councilman Timothy Ring said he knew that the municipality had had chaplains in the past on an informal basis, and added that he “absolutely” supported the new measure.

Council vice president Filipe Pedroso said the chaplain position is a “nice service” to provide residents with, and he thanked Payne for his efforts.

Council president Howard Norgalis recalled how he had been a fire chaplain in the past through his church, which he termed a “rewarding” experience, and also thanked Payne before all five council members approved the ordinance.