Alexander, Beaman, Ricca Doing Law as a Ministry

By Randi B. Hagi | July 20th, 2015

Wayne D. Beaman

Wayne D. Beaman, class of ’69, went from working for law enforcement agencies in the Shenandoah Valley to being a federal special agent in Texas.

Jim Alexander ’77, Wayne D. Beaman, class of ’69, and Edward Ricca ‘83 embraced law enforcement as their way of contributing to safe communities and ministering to distressed people.

Alexander and Beaman trace their police work to youthful dreams. “As a boy, I went through a phase of wanting to be a police officer, and somehow I just never grew out of it,” says Alexander, who is the assistant reserve commander of the Tell City Police Department in Indiana.

Alexander saw EMU news reports early in 2015 about students protesting police shootings of African American men and responded with this note to the alumni office: “How about a show of support for law enforcement officers risking their lives so that others have the freedom to pursue alternative peace and justice solutions?”

Alexander sees his police role as a form of ministry. “It provides an opportunity to give something back to the community, to assist.” By reflecting on how Jesus would relate to criminal offenders, “it is an opportunity to witness in a different way.”

Beaman had wanted to join the U.S. Marine Corps from a young age. In 1967, he withdrew from EMU to do so – a path that would lead him through the Vietnam War, the Virginia State Police, the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office, a position as a U.S. Marshal, and finally, working as a U.S. Department of Justice “special agent in charge” in Dallas, Texas.

Beaman was captivated by law enforcement as soon as he was hired as a state trooper: “I knew I had found my niche. I was enveloped by it.” During his 42 years of law enforcement, including two decades as a federal special agent, one reason he stayed committed was the “stimulating” work environment and “dedicated group of personnel.”

In Texas, he was responsible for managing special agents who investigated criminal and administrative misconduct within the Department of Justice, and his division received many Washington D.C. headquarters awards for arrests made and cases closed.

“While the conduct [of those caught] was always distressing, it was never surprising,” he comments, adding that human missteps occur everywhere, including within the ranks of law enforcement.

Taking an unusual path to a career in law enforcement, Ricca began his adult life as a Bible major, followed by an internship with Virginia Mennonite Conference. The conference placed him at Camp 8, a Department of Corrections field unit in Linville, Virginia.

Through that internship, Ricca was hired as a counselor at the Staunton Correctional Center, which led to his 29-year career with the Virginia Department of Corrections as a probation officer. “I was interested in ministry to the hurting,” says Ricca. “I had no clue that would mean working in this field, but in retrospect, I feel it has been a ministry in many ways.”

Ricca has sought to be a role model and to afford others dignity. That effort encompasses a group he has often dealt with as a probation officer: those labeled as sex offenders. “Sex offenders are the lepers of society,” says Ricca. “By isolating them and making employment and housing so difficult, we are contributing to making them more at risk of re-offending.”

He relates an anecdote of transporting an offender to a motel, as the man had no other housing options. Ricca asked the offender about his triggers for re-offending, and the man responded, “Loneliness and isolation.” Ricca felt pained by the irony: “Here we were housing him in a community where he knew no one, putting him in a room by himself.”

Alexander, Beaman and Ricca each alluded to recognizing the common humanity of all community members, including offenders and law enforcement officers, as being a crucial component of good police work.

Alexander holds this as a guiding tenet of conduct: “Treat others as you want to be treated,” he says. “That’s spiritual. That’s in the Bible.”