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Police placing chaplains in schools
13 volunteer to mentor, counsel MUSD students
Manteca Police Chief Dave Bricker swears in 13 Manteca Police Department chaplains.
Thirteen men and women of faith are stepping up to help the Manteca Police.

They are part of a new chaplain program aimed at reaching out to troubled students at Manteca Unified School District campuses.

“The chaplain program we’ve had in place for a long time was to provide help for officers who’ve dealt with traumatic situations or to assist with victims of crime,” Police Chief Dave Bricker. “These chaplains are taking us in a different direction.”

It is part of the Police Chief’s Initiative, a wide community-based repertoire of programs designed to weaken and diminish the influence of gangs on young people as well as to assist troubled youth in the community. The long-term goal is to reduce future crime rates by putting in place programs where youth can get help tutoring, help with problems or wholesome recreational diversions to stay out of trouble.

The chaplaincy program is being developed in partnership with Manteca Unified. They will be assigned to different schools where they will serve as mentors and counselors.

Overseeing the effort is Manteca Police officer Jason Hensley who serves as a gang prevention officer as well as chaplain advisor.

The volunteer are Sr. Chaplain Jim Day, Chaplain Dave Thompson, Chaplain Erik Aguirre, Chaplain Heidi Hensley, Chaplain Guy Romito, Chaplain Aundre Hillery, Chaplain Joe Macias, Chaplain John Hoppis, Chaplain John Syler, Chaplain Tim Kemptner, Chaplain Arabella Whitlock, Chaplain Steve Cole, Chaplain Heather Mahoney, Chaplain Sean Mahoney, Chaplain Rick Lackey, and Chaplain Tim Kennedy.

It is just one of a number of undertakings that range from Junior Crime Scene Investigators programs to efforts to put together a BMX team coached by police officers.

“We keep telling kids to find alternatives to gangs but then we don’t provide them,” Bricker said.

Bricker serves on the Boys & Girls Club board and has been active in other groups such as Give Every Child a Chance.

The Boys & Girls Club has been credited over the years with making a dent in juvenile delinquency rates and providing a safe haven for kids from the influence of gangs. Give Every Child a Chance’s free tutoring services has made a difference in the lives of over 10,000 youth in the last 11 years by improving their grasp of subjects and helping the students succeed in school.

Bricker noted churches have stepped up in other ways. He pointed to the Friday Unity in the Neighborhood operated by Southside Christian Church during the summer as one example.

While some ridicule such efforts, Bricker and juvenile delinquency experts point to long-term studies that show recreational programs and mentoring - even if it is only for three to four hours a week - can have a positive influence o kids plus counter gang pressures.,

Organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club help reduce the impact on crime from after school to 7 p.m. which is when most juveniles get into trouble.

Bricker has noted that the school resource officers have been an invaluable tool in collecting intelligence on gangs, defusing gang violence, and keeping campuses safer. The Manteca Unified School District is cutting funding for the officers in half for the upcoming school year and will drop completely in the 2011-12 budget year.

Bricker has vowed to find a way to keep the school resource officers in place at Sierra, Manteca, and East Union high schools.