By Dave Gemmell
Last week’s assassination of police officers who died while providing safety for a community protest has shaken our country, forcing us to have honest conversations as well as opening the door for congregations to minister with police.
Some pastors have taken on the uniform of the volunteer police chaplain in order to support the police as well as the community. Although entering the closed circle of the police fraternity may be difficult at first, eventually the officers are grateful for the help of the chaplains. They gladly pass on the job of death notifications to the clergy. But eventually relationships can develop go beyond just letting the chaplains do the dirty work. Police officers have a deep need for an outside professional to partner with them in their unique world.
Peter Hanson, director of the police chaplains in Chico, makes the following observations about journey of police officers.
“A police officers starts at a very high level altruism, they want to look and see that what they have done is to provide a more peaceful world with people getting along better and less crime. Yet after a few years the situation doesn’t improve and they enter into an awful lot of situations that they just can’t resolve. Their altruism starts to break down. And when their own personal lives begin to be affected by the brutal hours they have served and by the kind of things they have to absorb emotionally; from the things they see in the field that they can’t really share with their spouses, it makes them feel toxic. So they need the help of the police chaplain.”
The role of a police chaplain is not for everyone. If you’re not interested in getting a call at 2:00 am or enduring hours of rough language then maybe you shouldn’t apply. But for pastors who wish to make a difference in the community by ministering to peace officers, police chaplaincy could be that opportunity. Those interested should contact their local police department to find out how they can serve in an existing police chaplaincy. If there is not yet a police chaplaincy established they may consider starting one. The International Conference of Police Chaplains has many resources in place to assist in the creation of a local police chaplaincy. Watch a short video documentary of Pastor David Osborn’s experience serving as a Chico Police Chaplain.