The role of a law enforcement chaplain is one that offers complex and often last-minute discernment in terms of what is happening en vivo (live at that moment).
In my role as chaplain, I may have to forecast the outcome of an action. One question I ask myself is, “How will this incident affect my ride-along deputy?” I am keenly aware that a deputy may not reach out to me immediately when they experience something dramatic. For instance, if a deputy tried to save a child drowning in a pool and found out later that the child did not survive, the deputy may be in shock. The deputy still has to go home and put on a game face, but deep inside they are hurting and may not have an outlet for relief. We all must understand that we are physical, mental, emotional and spiritual creatures.
I also noticed when I started at the station, I had to gain the trust of those I work with. I understood that many personnel misunderstand my role. I am not some plant from IA, or sent by a superior to check up on them. Some deputies may have these thoughts, because in this day and age everyone feels they are under scrutiny. My role as a chaplain is to identify a personal need and be available by providing spiritual hope.
Here are some things that might be helpful as we look at life through my lens as an LASD chaplain:
1. I try to inform our personnel of my role. For example, some deputies appreciate that I can facilitate them on a T-stop because I am bilingual. I know my limitations and realize I am not a junior deputy, and I have no desire to be that, but I look for opportunities and appreciate it when a deputy asks me to get out of the car, which is a tip-off to stand by and be available.
2. I try to make friends with our personnel. One way is by stationing myself in the briefing room or somewhere nearby. The deputies walk by and often stop and chat for a bit. They know I am a volunteer and am there for them.
3. I stop by the station on holidays to say hi and drop off food or desserts.
4. I make myself available to the captain. I trust the captain and seek his input because I know that he also trusts me.
The chaplains I know and work with throughout the county of Los Angeles are uniquely trained. We are also first responders because God has prepared and equipped us to be available in time of need. We are God’s hands to our little part of the world.
My big concern is officer wellness. The deputies I work with need to know that what is shared is shared in confidence.
The starting point for being a good chaplain is being approachable, open and nonjudgmental. My starting point, for all who are reading this, is to be your friend.