DEAR SHERIFF: As a pastor I am interested in becoming a law enforcement chaplain. Please describe this position and their tasks with the sheriff’s office.
ANSWER: Imagine being an officer on patrol and you get a call of a serious personal injury accident. You arrive on the scene as fast as you can and find that fire service has not yet arrived. The vehicle is engulfed in flames with a person trapped in the back seat due to the crash. The officer and bystanders try to free the person but is unable to do so in time to save the person. What a terrible experience! The officer and bystanders are traumatized, the responding firemen are traumatized, the relatives and friends of the person are traumatized. This is a tragic situation that needs a trained response to reduce the effects of trauma for the living.
The tasks of police personnel, whether on patrol, following leads as an investigator, or working as a corrections officer in the correctional facility, is often a thankless one that can produce enormous stress. This can negatively affect an officer on a personal and family level. Enter the Elkhart County Sheriff law enforcement (LE) chaplains.
There are two types of volunteer chaplains: those previously described in this column who minister to inmates on a volunteer basis under the community-paid jail chaplain, and LE chaplains. While there are many fine organizations and groups endeavoring to assist county inmates and their families, the ministry of an LE chaplain is unique and directly focused on our LE personnel and the residents of the county.
Those who serve as LE chaplains are experienced and highly trained pastors and mature laypersons who provide volunteer service for those who have committed themselves to protect and serve in our community.
On-call 24 hours a day and ready to serve at a moment’s notice, LE chaplains enjoy interacting and getting to know our police, corrections and civilian personnel, providing confidential counsel to employees and their families on personal matters, offering citizen support during a personal or family crisis involving law enforcement action, responding to crashes involving critical injuries or deaths, lending help at scenes of a violent crime, assisting officers on suicide calls, helping with death notifications, and being available for grief counseling and crisis support for officers, other professionals and civilians, such as in the story above.