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'Pastor Paul' has office inside Tequesta Police Department, boosting officers' mental health

Deputies' deaths in St. Lucie County spark tough conversations
Posted at 4:44 PM, Jan 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-06 23:29:58-05

TEQUESTA, Fla. — The recent suicide deaths of two St. Lucie County deputies are leading to tough conversations in other agencies around the state and nation.

The question is: what more can be done to prevent the next tragedy?

The Tequesta Police Department has a strategy that's working for them, and it starts with a familiar face to officers — Pastor Paul Beresford.

He greets the officers day after day with hopes of building a relationship with each of them.

Pastor Paul has been a beloved staple in the department. For many years he has kept an office off-site where officers at any time could visit him.

Tequesta Police Chief Gus Medina
Tequesta Police Chief Gus Medina speaks about what Pastor Paul has brought to his department.

But when Chief Gus Medina took over the department in 2018, he had a new vision for Beresford.

"I said, 'I'd love to send you to some training,' and the pastor said, 'I'm all in,'" Medina said.

The pastor went through crisis intervention training to help not only officers but also community members experiencing a tragic loss.

But Medina wanted to go a step further and gave Pastor Paul his own office in the police department.

Pastor Paul said his door is always open with coffee, snacks and the only water-cooler in the building.

He said it's a place where he welcomes every officer to stop by, and when needed, it's a place where they can turn to him for a private, confidential conversation.

"You don't have to go off-site to get help. You don't have to hide from it," Medina said.

At 81 years old, Beresford still shows up to work five days a week.

Pastor Paul Beresford at Tequesta Police Department
Pastor Paul Beresford has his own office at the Tequesta Police Department.

Pastor Paul feels this has helped him get to know the officers on a more personal level, learning the simple things like their favorite coffee or candy.

He then likes to get to know about their families to gain their trust for the toughest conversations that job might start to weigh heavily on the officers.

"People say, 'Hey, I see him. I trust him,'" Beresford said. "They share things with me that you wouldn't believe. I'm thankful they can let that go."

Beresford said he's had officers show up to his home when they're "at the end of their rope."

Both Medina and the pastor said the suicide deaths in St. Lucie County sparked tough conversations even in their agency.

"Honestly, we take a look, what do we need to do more? Can we tweak something?" Medina asks.

He feels that Beresford is one of the agency's best mental health resources for both religious and non-religious officers. Some of them have even gone to his house for help.

"There are times where I've had officers call and say, 'I need to speak to Pastor Paul,'" Medina said.

Medina said he feels that the pastor has been one of the best additions to the mental health services offered to officers.

"I'm just a guy who walks around, tries to talk to people and encourage them as much as I can," Beresford said.

Medina knows that Pastor Paul isn't the only solution to end police suicide, an epidemic within the industry.

However, he knows it's been an asset to his agency, earning the pastor a permanent spot in the Tequesta Police family.