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Recently, three chaplains from the Benton County Sheriff's Office and the chaplain with the Bentonville Police Department (and perhaps others from Northwest Arkansas) attended the 46th annual training seminar for the International Conference of Police Chaplains on July 22-26 in Wichita, Kan. All attended classes beyond the basic level since they are already full members of ICPC. It was a privilege to be with them.

A highlight of the seminar was the silent memorial service in which the picture and circumstance of every law enforcement killed in the line of duty are flashed up on a huge screen. During the year between June 2018 and June 2019, there were approximately 208 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, along with 23 canines (dogs are an important part of law enforcement). In addition, 14 chaplains died during this period, although not necessarily in the line of duty. These numbers reflect an increase from the previous year. It is dangerous to be a law enforcement officer.

In addition to the training attendees receive, these training events provide a tremendous opportunity for chaplains to connect with one another across the country and in other countries. This year, there were 340 voting chaplains attending from the United States and five other countries plus their spouses (significant others) and children. ICPC is the largest and most professional organization in the world recognizing and credentialing chaplains in law enforcement. Networking is an important part of attending a training seminar.

As you might imagine, hosting an event like this takes a huge amount of planning and, of course, local security by the hosting law enforcement community. It takes a long time to plan and to put in place these events, and the next annual training seminar in Orlando, Fla., has already been planned. Regional training seminars are held in between the annual events, usually in the spring and fall.

Attending chaplains are able to learn a great deal about law enforcement and how they fit into the law enforcement structure by riding along with officers during one of these events. However, there are seldom any opportunities offered during an annual meeting due to the large number of attendees. Most ridealongs occur during the regional meetings, and I always take the opportunity to ride with an officer ... and learn.

I was extremely fortunate (blessed) to have the privilege of riding with an officer during this annual seminar -- in fact, the only one who had the opportunity. It happened innocently. My practice is to always stop and say a word of encouragement to any officer I happen to meet, and I noticed a police car with an officer in it at the hotel's entrance. It turned out this particular officer was the lieutenant in charge of the event's security and, with his rank and friendliness, I was invited to sit in his car and visit with him ... and subsequently invited to ride with him for a couple of hours the next morning. You may be sure I accepted the invitation.

Not only was I privileged to ride with him for a couple of hours and talk about many different issues, but I also was invited into his precinct to meet his captain and staff and to attend his morning staff briefing. Thus, I had the opportunity to interact with numerous officers of various ranks, both men and women. These were professional law enforcement officers fully equipped to protect us from all sorts of dangers, and I thanked them for their service.

Almost universally, law enforcement officers are asked to serve under the pledge "To Protect and to Serve." Almost all of the law enforcement officers I have met do a great job with the "protecting" side of this goal, but I cannot always say the same about the other side -- that is, actively practicing the "serving" part of their job. They are there to serve the community around them, but too often they do this from a distance. They serve, but they do not actively mingle in a friendly way with the people around them.

Lt. Drew Seiler clearly exemplified the "serving" role of his service. I saw him easily mingle with people of all ages with a genuine smile and warm word of encouragement. I also saw other officers doing the same thing, and I asked a sergeant about it. He replied by saying that this was the practice throughout the police department and seemed amazed that it was not the same everywhere. This attitude has to be fostered from the top down, and I commend the Wichita Police chief for his leadership in this area and for Lt. Seiler and the others for following him. Law enforcement officers "protect" and "serve" and I am grateful for both.

Robert Box is the former chaplain for the Bella Vista Police Department and is currently the Fire Department chaplain. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Religion on 08/07/2019

Print Headline: To protect and serve

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