WESTFIELD, NJ — How do law enforcement officials tell family members their loved one has died, and who do police officers turn to for guidance when one of their own passes?
Starting Tuesday, the Westfield Police Department will have two chaplains — Rabbi Douglas Sagal of Temple Emanu-El and Deacon Keith Gibbons of Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church — to help address these and other sensitive matters.
“The police chaplains will assist Westfield Police Department members and their families in times of need, as well as members of the general public,” said Chief Chris Battiloro. “They will assist us at the scenes of critical incidents, such as tragic accidents and sudden deaths, and when making sensitive notifications such as the passing of loved ones.”
Battiloro this week announced the chaplains’ appointments, along with the promotion of Frank Padovano from lieutenant to captain.
While the department has had chaplains before, it has not had one in many years, and never two at once, Battiloro said. The 2017 death of 14-year-old Westfield High School freshman Terry DiFalco, who was hit by an off-duty state trooper while crossing Central Avenue, and the sudden death of 47-year-old Westfield Detective Eric Lieberman in May of 2018 brought attention to the need for a formal chaplaincy program, he said.
“The loss of Eric hit many of us hard,” Battiloro said. “And it still does.”
Sagal, a Westfield resident, is the senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El in Westfield. Raised in Summit and Berkeley Heights, he graduated from Governor Livingston High School, officials said. A graduate of Wesleyan University, he was ordained in 1990 after graduating from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem and New York City, officials said.
Gibbons, a lifelong Westfield resident, was made a permanent deacon in 2005 and serves in various ministries at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, including the Hope Heals Cancer Ministry and St. Joseph’s Soup Kitchen, officials said. He is a graduate of Westfield High School and Kean University, officials said.
“I expect they will bring incredible compassion to the position and will be able to help us comfort and console persons better,” Battiloro said.
Padovano already heads up the Westfield Police Department’s Emergency Service Unit and is the Westfield Police Department’s supervising firearms instructor, Battiloro said. In his new role, Padovano will command the police department’s administrative division, he said.
A resident of nearby Cranford, Padovano is a 20-year veteran of the Westfield Police Department, having started as a patrol officer in 1998 after first serving as a state corrections officer, Battiloro said. Under the rates in effect, Padovano’s promotion grants him a $10,070 boost in his annual base pay from the $130,253 he earned as a lieutenant to the $140,323 he is slated to earn as a captain.
Padovano will also serve as the department’s accreditation manager when Westfield police begin seeking accreditation from the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police, Battiloro said.
Sagal, Gibbons and Padovano will be sworn in at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting to be held at the Municipal Building, 425 East Broad St., at 8 p.m.
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh