As I received news this week and as I reminisced today, I thought on experiences of times past. Specifically I thought on my 20 years of duty as chaplain foot patrol supervisor on our oceanfront resort strip. This effort was accomplished in response to a request from our city government to assist in peace keeping on the strip during the summer late nights on weekends and holidays. In 1989 we had a very serious problem with black college fraternities choosing to gather here on Labor Day weekend to celebrate the end of summer and the return to college classes. We were inundated with many visitors jammed into our resort strip area along the beach front.
Hotels were full to capacity and walkways were so crowded as to make strolling very difficult. They demanded much attention from late afternoon until day break the next morning. They liked to be rowdy and boisterous and push the limits on activity bordering on breach of the peace and often public drunkenness. It seemed to me that some came here just to create problems and unrest among the other visitors. I personally dealt with many of these individuals and I was in the thick of the unrest and riotous activity in 1989.
The destructive activity lit off within ten feet of my location during the early morning hours of Sunday and proceeded from the 2000 block north to the 2400 block of Atlantic Ave. totally blocking the street including the sidewalks. Traffic had already been stopped and routed from Atlantic Ave. In the 2400 block some of the crowd started damaging city property and acted threateningly against a wrecker driver… Then they started south again and began to break windows and throw anything at hand… Then people on the street side hotel balconies began to throw things onto the crowd below, at times targeting police personnel including me. I dodged my share of bottles and other things by keeping under the projecting balconies as my Lieutenant and I made our way back to the Command Center where we were ordered to report for regrouping and reassignment. The rest of the night was spent until daybreak dealing with riotous groups creating damage and looting. The National Guard was ordered to be on the streets at daybreak to relieve the police. Sunday night through Monday night we had over 1800 police personnel operating out of our Command Center.
That is the history of the reason for Chaplain Walking Beat Patrols. In May of 1990 I was called to meet with the Commander of the 2nd Police Precinct. He handed several news articles to me and said, “We want this in operation here by Labor Day this summer. The articles were about a Police Chaplain Program in Daytona Beach Florida where they had to deal with College Spring Break gatherings. Police patrols were comprised of two officers and two volunteer chaplains on walking beats. The job of the chaplains was to calm marginal problems before they became police problems if possible… If they could not, then the police officers handled the problems and the chaplains watched out for the officers.
I contacted the Chaplain in charge in Daytona and requested him to come here and present the program to us. He agreed to come the first of June. Meanwhile I contacted the local clergy groups of Black and other clergy to invite them to attend the meeting with Chaplain Larry Edwards from Daytona and be trained and volunteer to assist us with people problems on the resort strip during the summer on weekend nights and holidays. They agreed to come to the meeting… Many of them requested the training. We had the training the last week of June and installed over twenty chaplains to work with police officers on the strip on Friday, June 29th, 1990. We were resisted by officers. They did not believe it could work… None of them wanted the additional responsibility of chaplains with them to have to watch over.
Sometime after midnight that first Friday night I was in the 1800 block just south of 19th street with several of the new chaplains and a news reporter. They were tired, footsore and weary. They wanted to go home. Just then a loud noise attracted our attention from toward 19th street. Two groups were proceeding southbound engaged in a very loud argument involving physical threats. The most peaceful group was Black. The boisterous group was White and Hispanic… This group was threatening to attack the Blacks. The major problem was one of the Hispanic males who was so inebriated that he could not walk and was being held up and carried along by two others but his loud mouth was working so well as he tried to instigate a fight with the Blacks. I punched my radio and called for assistance. Officers arrived just as the two groups arrived at my location. The officers arrested the loud mouthed instigator and his girlfriend in the group blew up… A chaplain took her by the hand, walked her a ways down the street and began to talk with her face to face… She was advised to calm down or she would likely be arrested also. She stood there with her eyes bugged and mouth hanging open, not speaking. The chaplain left her as she walked on down the street and hurried back to the Black group of three young men who were now very upset and getting loudly vocal…
The chaplain approached the first one and talked with him explaining what would happen if he did not calm down… He calmed down immediately… The chaplain turned to the second young Black man and repeated the process and he calmed down immediately… As the chaplain turned to the third young Black man, the young man threw up his hands and told the chaplain that he had no problems, he was fine. The news reporter with the chaplain group interviewed the young Black men. Sunday morning the local newspaper had front page headlines, “CHAPLAINS CALM OCEANFRONT WITH SUBTELITY AND SMILES.” The reporter had interviewed the young Black men and they said they would rather be dealt with by the chaplains than by the police. They were happy with the results.
Police personnel called that incident a fluke… “It can’t happen again” they said… But the very next Friday night there was an incident that was about to become a threatening problem and the Lieutenant called for a chaplain…
One was close by and responded immediately. The Lieutenant literally threw the chaplain at two young men under arrest and running their mouth trying to incite a crowd to take them from the officers. The chaplain spoke face to face with the loudest one and he calmed right down. It was repeated with the second man and he calmed right down. The effort to incite stopped and the crowd became disinterested and went away. Shore Patrol arrived and took away the two men in custody and the chaplain was left there alone on the sidewalk. The Lieutenant had retreated to the opposite side of the street and shouted to the chaplain to wait as he crossed the street to the chaplain’s location. He said he had seen the incident the previous Friday, didn’t believe it but had witnessed it, now you have done it again… “I am your best supporter from now on!”
That was the first week of the new program from which I retired. It began in 1990. I was already a chaplain since 1976 and was in charge of the old program and the new program. I was medically retired the end of October 2011… 35 years of duty and adventure. It was an awesome thing to supervise the chaplains, assist the officers and citizens and walk those eight blocks of streets and Boardwalk… To survey crowds so thick that you could seldom see the sidewalk they were on, looking for people problems that needed watching or immediate attention. I did all that and also protected officers from harm in any ways that I could including physically handling threatening people, distraught people, inebriated people, lost people and children… Plus many other situations too numerous to enumerate here. No Peace Keeper ever had a more adventurous assignment… And seldom any assignment that could be more demanding… And please remember that I was a Virginia State Trooper with a very active career before I came here and became a Volunteer Officer/Volunteer Chaplain in addition to my duties as a Clergyman and Self-employed Contract Draftsman plus ran severl other businesses and endeavors.
I am most humbly honored to have been one among all the Peace Keepers… Just ONE! There are over 800,000 active law enforcement officers in this country plus all of the retired officers… Plus our military here and abroad, active and retired. Every one of them also has a story to tell that is adventurous and powerfully valuable to the progress of this nation. Peace Keeper, WE WOULD NOT EXIST AS THE NATION WE ARE IF IT WERE NOT FOR YOU AND YOUR PREDECESSORS!!!… THANK YOU!!! STAY SAFE AND GO HOME SAFELY AT THE END OF YOUR TOUR! BE EVEN GREATER BLESSED THAN YOU HAVE BEEN BY…
“BEING CAREFUL OUT THERE!” ALWAYS be alert, watchful, suspicious and wary. Take the very best care of you as you care for and about others. See to the strength and well being of your spirit as well as all the rest of yourself. Your spirit must be strong for you to be successful. All of this is by your own choice… He has made provision for you but it is up to you to learn it, take it and put it to use for the best results possible.
Call or write if I may be of any service… Or if you just want to encourage me… Feedback encourages all who write… It helps to know we are reaching someone who reads the message.
Donna is still doing better.
Donnie went to the doctor and is recovering.
I am doing well. I saw my eye surgeon Thursday. He was surprised that I could see with my left eye, not clearly but I could see my left hand and that is still improving. The doctor was astonished. He said I would never see again with the left eye. Grace is abundant… I am not done yet.
Thanks for the responses, care, concern and prayers… Keep it all coming!
As it has always been… So it still is!!!
“VICTORIOUS WARRIORS WIN FIRST…
AND THEN GO TO WAR,
WHILE DEFEATED WARRIORS GO TO WAR FIRST…
AND THEN SEEK TO WIN.” Sun tzu
Training and practice are everything!
Without them, the best results are not obtained!
ONLY LIVE PEACE KEEPERS SEE THE VICTORY!!!
THEY SEE IT ONLY BECAUSE OTHERS HAVE MADE THEIR ETERNAL PAYMENTS OF SWEAT, BLOOD, TEARS AND LIFE FOR THAT VICTORY!
WITH THE DEEPEST OF APPRECIATION AND RESPECT…
BE BLESSED (A CONDITION TO BE ENVIED)…
BE SUCCESSFUL… BE SAFE…
[My injunction to be safe means doing all you know to do as you do your job… it means doing the best you can with what you have where you are using all your faculties to get the job done well and with good results conquering evil and keeping or restoring peace… it does not mean to avoid duty and honor… it does not mean to cower or allow anything to hinder you in the process of duty according to rules, law and ethics… it means that if the demand takes your earthly life you destroy as much evil as possible in the process. That is my definition of being safe… doing the best you can and leaving the rest to God or whomever else is responsible… being best employed for the sake and protection of all the things and people that we hold dear.]
I represent, write for… and give the credit to:
God the Father (my Commander-in-Chief),
Jesus Christ the Son (the Eternal Captain of my life) and
the Holy Spirit of God (my Eternal Teacher, Keeper and Guide).
In Christ I live… with Him and for you I serve…
And I rejoice that you are there whether you are Christian or not…
For God, Country and the Peace Keeper…
D. R. (Don) Staton, Chaplain to Peace Keepers,
Surviving Peace Keeper,
Virginia State Police Alumni,
RETIRED Police Officer,
RETIRED Police Instructor,
RETIRED Chaplain Administrator,
Community Service Officer (Traffic Safety),
Virginia Beach Police Dept.
3709 Beacon Lane, Virginia Beach, VA 23452-3501
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Except for quoted material attributed to a specific source, all material in CHAPLAIN CORNER is my personal opinion gained from 49 years of working with people in peace keeping and is not to be construed to represent the policies and opinions of any department with whom I have served or am serving.
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