N.J., Philly cops go to console Baton Rouge and Dallas colleagues, and are ‘moved to tears’

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Police Chaplain Bob Ossler (left), from Millville, N.J., prays with Baton Rouge Police Cpl. Trina Dorsey and her brother, Cpl. Joseph Keller.

Bob Ossler's brain was fried. His body, crisped. The unforgiving sun of a Louisiana summer had drained him.

The police chaplain from Millville, Cumberland County, had prayed with hundreds of law enforcement officials since he arrived Sunday in Baton Rouge, where a gunman had killed three officers in an ambush.

But the fatigue didn't stop Ossler.

When a group of officers waved him over Wednesday — where they came from he does not know; "I see badges and I pray" — he put his hands on their shoulders and read from Psalm 23. Even the toughest officers began choking up, he said. They ended the prayer with "Amen" and embraced him.

"I was so moved to tears by that," Ossler said. "I'm just a chaplain from out of state letting people know that we care deeply for them."

Ossler and other local law enforcement officials have flocked south in recent weeks to offer comfort in Baton Rouge as well as Dallas, where a sniper killed five officers two weeks ago.

The Philadelphia and Camden Police Departments and the New Jersey State Police each had officers in Dallas. Evesham Township plans to have officers attend the funerals in Baton Rouge. Cherry Hill sent seven officers to Dallas.

"It was the best worst experience of my life," said Cherry Hill Detective Ryan Del Campo, who spent several days in Dallas.

Many people expressed gratitude for their visit. Anonymous individuals paid the Cherry Hill officers' tabs at restaurants. Others embraced them outside Dallas police headquarters.

The level of support, Del Campo said, "literally left us speechless."

Ossler, the Millville chaplain, also went to Dallas, where a racially motivated former soldier opened fire on police during a peaceful Black Lives Matter march.

The attack came as protesters in cities across the United States voiced frustration over the deaths in police shootings of Philando Castile, a passenger in a car stopped in Falcon Heights, Minn., and Alton Sterling, a street vendor, in Baton Rouge.

Ossler had asked to represent Millville in Dallas, and his chief, Jody Farabella, agreed.

Ossler's work is crucial, Farabella said, because many officers feel they are too tough to ask for help.

"That's what hurts officers in the long run," Farabella said. "When they keep this inside and don't talk about it."

The Cumberland County Community Church, where Ossler is an associate pastor, and a number of Millville officers have covered his travel expenses, including a flight from Dallas to Baton Rouge, where Ossler traveled after learning of the ambush there.

Near the beauty-supply store where the shooting happened, people waited in line to pray this week. Some identified Ossler by the shirt he wore that read in bold letters: "Police Chaplain." He said Wednesday that he hoped to stay several more days.

"These people need love," Ossler said. "They need strength."

mboren@phillynews.com

856-779-3829 @borenmc