Caring For Police and Citizens

chaplain badge          In a post-modern age such as ours, fielding chaplains in a police department  can be a tricky endeavor. It is primarily so because some clergy can’t constrain what they believe to be their mission to evangelize others when the situation calls for supporting them where they are at — not where they think they should be.

Nevertheless, permit me to venture forward. During most of my 30+ years in policing I was a nominal religious person — you know, a “C&E Christian” (seen only on Christmas and Easter).

However, toward the end of my career I got this strange “call” to faith and ministry. I began to see that the things I came to believe about high quality policing was not just through my secular education but also because of the faith in which I was raised.

When I announced to the community and police department that I was going to retire and pursue ordination in the Christian faith, I got letters telling me I should resign. That’s what I mean about faith in the public sector being tricky. And that’s why this may be a tricky blog.

Nevertheless, I proceed. In the past, I have written about the importance for police leaders to understand and properly respond to the emotional lives of their police officers. It’s a big job and, therefore, leaders need help. And that help can come from properly selected and trained police chaplains whom I also believe are vitally necessary in today’s modern police agency (and I precisely say “chaplain” rather than “pastor.” I do so because the two functions are absolutely and distinctly different.

After my retirement and seminary education, I served over a year as a chaplain in a city hospital. There was no way I could have been a comforter and helper to the religious and spiritual diversity of those whom I was called to serve if I thought my job was to make Christian converts. The same goes for police chaplains.

When a man or woman serves as a chaplain they are there to help everyone and not to “bring souls to Jesus.” Effective police chaplains serve all — saints and sinners — people of faith and those who are not — everyone!

In a very astute and thoughtful blog, Chief Rob Hall talks about why he has police chaplains on his department:

“Early in my current tenure, I responded to a call of ‘man with a gun — shots fired.’ It turned out to be a suicide; a teenager had shot himself in the head in front of several of his peers. It was a tragic and traumatic situation, not only for the witnesses but for me and the responding officers.

“My team did what we do: the crime scene was processed; statements were taken; next of kin were notified. But so much of what ‘happened’ to all present was not put down on paper, and did not make its way into the official record. Human beings need to process this kind of event with a qualified individual who is fully prepared to do so: a police chaplain…

“Police chaplains… must be able to deal with a variety of people with different faith backgrounds, as well as people without faith backgrounds. There is a difference between being a pastor and being a chaplain. A pastor takes an active role in people’s faith life development, while a chaplain supports people where they are at that moment.” You can read the rest of his excellent article HERE.

Chaplains are an important addition to today’s professional police department that understands the trauma that is present in many police actions; trauma which can negatively impact in the long term both police and citizen.

But chaplains, just like police officers, need proper selection, training and supervision in order to be able to effectively help others. Every chaplain program needs proper policy, rules, regulation, slection, training, and oversight. Without this, the program is bound to fail.

To find out more about chaplains, their training, and necessary certification, visit the website of the International Conference  of Police Chaplains.

Today’s modern police leader looks to all resources in caring for his or her officers and citizens. Well-trained and supervised chaplains help make that happen.

 

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By the way: THE NEW QUALITY LEADERSHIP WORKBOOK FOR POLICE: Improvement and Leadership Methods by me and Sabine Lobitz is now available on line at the eBook store (List Price: $19.95). This was the workbook that transformed a police department and its leadership style. In it, you will learn how to:

  • Identify core values.
  • Develop a bold vision.
  • Work effectively in a team.
  • Lead organizational change.
  • Measure success.
  • Sustain improvements.
  • Become a better leader.
  • Know what to do and when to do it.

 

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About improvingpolice

I served over 20 years as the chief of police in Madison (WI), four years as chief of the Burnsville (MN) Police Department, and before that as a police officer in Edina (MN) and the City of Minneapolis. I hold graduate degrees from the University of Minnesota and Edgewood College in Madison. I have written many articles over my years as a police leader calling for police improvement (for example, How To Rate Your Local Police, and with my wife, Sabine, Quality Policing: The Madison Experience). After retiring from the police department, I answered a call to ministry, attended seminary, and was ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church. At the present time, I serve a small church in North Lake (WI), east of Madison. Sabine and I have nine adult children, eleven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She is also a retired police officer and we both continue active lives.

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