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Updated 5:30 PM February 1, 2008




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Spotlight: Respect serves security chief, chaplain well

U-M Health System security supervisor Rod Allen learned early on to respect patients, an attitude that serves him well in his new volunteer role as Ann Arbor police chaplain.

Allen and his wife, Margaret, are pastors at Shekinah Christian Church in Ann Arbor. "Our pastor met with the Ann Arbor chief of police because her desire is for our church to get out into the community," Allen says. "During the meeting (the chief) informed her that he was wanting to begin a chaplain program for the department and she felt that I would be a good fit for the program."
(Photo by Lin Jones, U-M Photo Services)

Because of Allen's experience both as a staff pastor and a security supervisor, he was chosen to join a group of three new chaplains, the first in years to serve the department.

"We're there for the officers so they have someone to talk to," Allen says. He and two other chaplains also bear the responsibility of informing families in the community of tragedy and loss.

When Allen was laid off from his job at the Ford plant in Ypsilanti in the early 1980s he began working as a guard for the University. He was promoted to officer then advanced to his current position in which he has overseen security officers for 22 years.

As an International Association for Healthcare Security & Safety (IAHSS) certified health care protection administrator, Allen is trained in areas of risk management, safety, security and management. Most hospitals ensure that their security staff is IAHSS certified so as to maintain an up-to-date nationwide network on the latest safety and security measures.

Allen says working in security suits him because of the interaction with staff. "As a supervisor, I know my staff feels comfortable to come and talk to me if they're having problems," he says. "That isn't common in staff and supervisor relationships."

Allen oversees officers that patrol the medical campus, including offsite areas in Ypsilanti and clinics at Domino Farms. He also is responsible for a clinic in Brighton, although the local police serve as backup.

The hospital security service staff also escorts visitors, patients and staff to and from their cars and helps in the emergency room if a patient is causing a problem.

"We've been able to de-escalate situations with the patient still having his dignity intact," Allen says.

In his job, Allen says it's important to always stick by the golden rule. "Treat people with respect and in the same way you want to be treated. If you have respect for yourself and for other people they will respect your position. You don't have to force that upon them."

As part of his chaplain duties, Allen rides along with a police officer for about eight hours a month on a volunteer basis. "Ride-arounds are for us to get to know what they're doing. For officers, their car is like their office so it's more comfortable for them to speak in their usual surroundings," he says.

"People need to understand that these officers have families and children and they enjoy wanting to be able to go home and see their kids," Allen says. "It's interesting to just listen to them and really see how they feel rather than just thinking of them as a person in a uniform."

Because the chaplain program is so new, Allen's skills in this role have yet to be tested. "This first year is kind of like a feeling-out process. We're both walking on new ground."

Allen finds satisfaction in both his paid and volunteer jobs. "I'm there to help people and for them to talk to me if they have problems. I have a lot of compassion for people."

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