Akron Pastor Michael Murphy Sr. became the Akron Police Department’s first black chaplain when he was installed Wednesday in a ceremony at the Akron Civic Theater’s Knight Stage.
His appointment by Chief of Police Steve Mylett and swearing in by Mayor Dan Horrigan comes as the department is still recovering from the Jayland Walker shooting nearly nine months ago. Protests followed the shooting, with the eventual establishment of a civilian-led police commission.
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In the aftermath of the shooting, the ministry and the city have met with community leaders and residents in an effort to rebuild broken relationships within the community.
Murphy has been involved in that process, gaining experience as a pastor and father of an Akron police sergeant.
Chaplain knew Jayland Walker, hopes to bridge communication gaps
In a phone interview on Wednesday prior to the ceremony, Murphy said he understands the role of the police and community concerns about policing.
“I’m a local minister and actually knew Jayland Walker and knew his father well,” said Murphy. “…We’re just trying to promote better communication between the city, the police and residents.”
The new chaplain said he has advised officers who are disturbed by some aspects of their jobs, especially when it comes to harming children.
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“I serve the city and the men and women of the Akron Police Department,” he said. “Mentally supported officers are better officers.”
Murphy said he has been working in the chaplain role since December.
Reviving the role of the Akron Police Chaplain
Wednesday’s formal installation comes years after the departure of Pastor Bob Denton, a longtime de facto police chaplain. The Wednesday event saw one officer promoted to lieutenant and three officers to sergeant.
Mylett said after the ceremony that Murphy brings decades of experience to the position and has already worked with officers who are challenged by troubling aspects of their jobs.
“He’s been in this town for decades,” Mylett said. “He understands the role of the police officer and the challenges that police officers and the families of police officers face every day.”
Murphy said an important part of the feature is being available when needed.
“Pastoral ministry is, at its core, a ministry of presence,” he said.
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Leave a message for Alan Ashworth at 330-996-3859 or email him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @newsalanbeaconj.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Pastor of Akron sworn in as police chaplain at downtown ceremony