By Brandi Makuski
Of the hundreds of details Stevens Point police had to attend during their move into its new Michigan Ave. headquarters, they say one of them had to be recognition of it’s original chaplain group.
The brainchild of Chief Martin Skibba about two decades years ago, the program is comprised of clergy from various faiths, providing police with on-call chaplain services on a 24/7 basis. The chaplains provide religious comfort and counseling in times of great stress, but they also offer a deeper element of camaraderie for emergency workers who regularly put their own lives in danger.
“There are some officers who are very religious, but not all of them,” said David Ficken, pastor of Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, at the 2016 SPPD annual recognition dinner. “Sometimes, we just shoot the breeze, or lend an ear.”
The five original chaplains – David Guerrero, Matthew Mallek, Douglas Schneider, David Ficken, Robert Terrell, and Susan Gilbert Zenckawere – gathered at the new police dept. on Dec. 15, not only for presentation of appreciation plaques but also for a tour of the SPPD’s new space.
Chaplains will have their own office for the first time in the new headquarters at 933 Michigan Ave.; they previously worked from a shared desk in a hallway of the former police department, located in the basement of the courthouse.
“Some time ago, I asked you folks for your [original] badges,” Sgt. Tony Zblewski, who oversees the all-volunteer program, said to the group. “We had an internal discussion about what we could do with those, and we came up with something to commemorate your service as Stevens Point chaplains.”
As many law enforcement traditions rest heavily on ceremony, Zblewski said recognizing the original group was important.
“This also shows you we really care and all your work is not forgotten,” he added. “I’m not sure we’d be in the same spot without you; just know it’s not forgotten, where this [group] originated.”
While the chaplains were always available to emergency crews throughout the county, the program was formally expanded as a countywide chaplain system in April.