Six years ago, St. Louis police Lt. Fred Turner, then homicide unit commander, recruited ministers of multiple faiths as volunteer liaisons between families of the murdered and detectives, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. They call themselves the Homicide Ministers and Community Alliance. Turner, now retired, recognized that a major impediment to solving a homicide is convincing wary families that detectives care enough to try. The odds of an arrest in a given murder aren’t great. Attitudes of family and friends of the newly slain may be “poisoned” by a perception of police apathy from others frustrated by a lack of movement in their own cases. In addition, murder witnesses are many times criminals themselves, and naturally reluctant to talk to police. As an ordained minister, Turner believed faith could be an answer. “People seem to want to listen to a minister rather than someone from the homicide unit,” he explained. “There’s a spiritual side of people that comes out in these situations. People are looking to the church for salvation, or relief from grief.”
“Fred started this because he wanted to win over St. Louis one family at a time, and he knew a pastor can engage on a personal level and a spiritual level and share in the grief,” said Capt. Mike Sack, a former Catholic priest who has taken over he unit. “My guys remain emotionally detached from it because they can't get wrapped up in the family's needs, which can detract from their effectiveness at solving cases.” The ministers have spawned multiple benefits, Sack said. Some reluctant witnesses have found the inspiration to talk. Sometimes, people drawn toward crime have turned themselves around. Measuring the impact is impossible, Sack said, but he's certain there is a positive effect. Families interact more with detectives.