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New job 'terrific,' police chaplain says

Last updated: Wednesday, Sep 21, 2005 - 07:07:10 am PDT

With about a month of being the newest volunteer chaplain with the Lodi Police Department under his belt, Raphael Pazo Jr. says the job is "terrific" and also much more involved and enjoyable than he had thought it might be.

Pazo, who is already a member of the department's Honor Guard as a bagpiper, became an ordained rabbi in June. Two months later, he became a chaplain.

Chaplain Raphael Pazo

The five chaplains in Lodi are sometimes called to comfort family members of vehicle accident or homicide victims. That's something Pazo has experience with, because of his work as manager and director of Frisbie-Warren and Carroll Mortuary in Stockton. He was previously director of Lodi Funeral Home.

He's also certified as a deputy coroner, a reserve police officer and served in the U.S. Army overseas.

Those experiences will also help him in the other aspect of the job: Chaplains often serve as counselors for employees of the police and fire departments.

"It gives me an opportunity to get to know the officers better and know the things they're going through," Pazo said. "It makes you realize that they're just like you and I. They have the same visions, the same concerns relating to our family, what roles we play in society and in the community."

The husband and father of four said many officers have typical family concerns, such as the well-being of their teenage children.

Chaplains promise confidentiality, Pazo said, unless there is an issue of safety, whether it be suicide or threats against others.

 "Everything else is completely confidential, whether it's the chief of police or a custodian in the building," he said.

As a chaplain, Pazo tries to work as many hours as possible on the weekends. He and three other chaplains -- one has been activated for military duty overseas -- also rotate their on-call duties, each spending a week on call, 24 hours a day.

"It's really unpredictable; you never know what will happen," Pazo said.

Lodi chaplains are required to work at least 48 hours a year and attend six one-hour training sessions annually, said Capt. Gary Benincasa, who overseas the program.

Chaplains are often a great help to officers who are trying to deal with crime scene evidence, witnesses and hysterical family members, Benincasa said, recalling a fatality involving a train and a pedestrian. He was very relieved to see two chaplains arrive.

"It takes a special calling to be a chaplain," he said.

Pazo is the only Jewish chaplain between Modesto and Sacramento, though that doesn't really make a difference among chaplains, he said. Chaplains make sure they don't impose their specific religions when counseling others, and they also talk about psychological and personal matters, Pazo added.

As a rabbi, though, Pazo can now perform various Jewish ceremonies, including weddings.

It's just another thing to add to his list of accomplishments, ranging from playing bagpipes at police officer funerals to holding two bachelors degrees, two masters degrees and two doctorates.

And if the chaplain is needed to interpret, he can do so in Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish or Portuguese.

Contact reporter Layla Bohm at layla@lodinews.com.

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Music of Elegance and Distinction

by Dr. Raphael Pazo, Highland Bagpiper 


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