Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica Police Department Says Goodbye to Its Longtime Spiritual Leader
By Jason Islas
September 30, 2013 -- Reverend Clarence Crites, who served as chaplain to the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD), retired Wednesday after more than three decades of service.
Crites, who will also be leaving his position as senior pastor for the Church of the Nazerene in the Wilmont Neighborhood when he moves to Oregon with his family next month, began volunteering as one of two chaplains for the SMPD in the early 1980s.
“I'm personally sad that he's moving away. I will miss him,” said Councilmember Bob Holbrook, who has been friends with the pastor for decades. “He's one of the nicest people I know.”
Holbrook's sentiments were echoed by Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks.
“For the more than three decades during which Chaplain (Reverend) Clarence Crites has been a mainstay of our Chaplain Program, he unselfishly volunteered his time in service of this community and our Police Department,” she said.
Seabrooks joined the SMPD in 1982, around the same time Crites came aboard as one of two volunteer chaplains.
“I am honored and privileged to have worked with him,” she told The Lookout in an email Friday. “On behalf of the men and women of the Santa Monica Police Department, I wish him much happiness in his retirement.”
While Crites' legacy includes expanding the chaplain service to include six volunteers from a variety of different faiths, Seabrooks also remembered “(h)is quiet professionalism, dedicated service, and humbleness,” all of which she said were “testaments to his faith.”
Crites said he came to the job to help officers cope with the stress of their work.
“It's a pretty stressful situation,” he said. “Their lives are on the line and they never know what's creeping up behind them.”
Crites said that in the past, he has seen officers struggle with alcoholism and tensions at home as a result of the stress of their work.
“We just thought that a chaplain ministry could help diffuse some of that,” he said.
In 1989, when the department's senior chaplain retired, Crites took over as SMPD's only chaplain.
“It takes a lot of time and energy to be a chaplain if you are pastoring a church at the same time,” he said.
As chaplain, Crites' served the community as well as offering a listening ear to officers trying to cope with stress.
One thing Crites did was help officers serve notices to the families of suicide victims.
“I would generally be called in by someone from the department and go to the family and try to help bring comfort,” he said. “There's not much sense that can be made out of a situation like that.”
And when tragedies affected the whole community, Crites was there.
“When the Farmers Market fiasco went down, I was called into that,” he said. Crites was referring to the day in July 2003 that an 86-year-old man accidentally drove his car through a crowded Farmers Market in downtown Santa Monica, killing nine people.
“There was a lot of confusion about what to do and who should do it,” he said.
Amidst the chaos, Crites said he took up a position near the door of a helicopter that was being used to airlift victims from the scene. As people passed by, he offered to pray with them as they boarded the helicopter.
“When I got back to the station, it was clear that (my actions) had had an impact on the officers,” he said.
Now, Crites and his wife are preparing to move to Salem, Oregon to live near their daughter and her family.
And he's looking forward to spending time with their infant grandson.
“I need to go up there and teach him how to do those things his mother did when she was his age to annoy her mom,” he said.
But after 35 years, Crites' absence will not go unnoticed.
“I'm certain he will be missed by the community and his parishioners,” Holbrook said.
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