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OPINION:

by By Robert Box, A Chaplain’s Perspective | November 16, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

Someone once said, "You may notice as you go forth into the world that you have two hands, one to reach out to help yourself and one to reach out to help others." That's a brilliant observation.

Recently, the International Conference of Police Chaplains (ICPC) met in Houston, Texas, during Oct. 9-13 for its Regional Training Seminar (RTS). ICPC is the largest credentialing and training organization for law enforcement chaplains in the United States (and even around the world), and aspiring law enforcement chaplains attend its seminars. Although there have been other organizations spring up attempting to provide training for law enforcement chaplains, there is no shortcut for quality training.

ICPC does not endorse chaplains. That is a job left to religious organizations, and normally requires some kind of ordination before endorsement is possible. Since ordination normally requires four years of college plus three years of graduate work and a meeting with an ordination committee. It's a long process and chaplaincy endorsement requires another year of chaplaincy training in Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). Thus, it is easy to assume that not many law enforcement chaplains are endorsed chaplains.

However, anyone may become a law enforcement chaplain if someone in authority asks them to be one -- e.g. a police chief or a sheriff. Some pastors make excellent chaplains; others do not, for there is a qualitative difference between the two. Police chiefs and sheriffs have an obligation to ask their chaplains to receive proper training just as they do their officers and deputies. After all, the Justice Department of the United States has determined that law enforcement chaplains, whether paid or not, come under the same guidelines as law enforcement officers trained in a police academy.

ICPC recognizes the need for law enforcement chaplains to receive quality training and therefore has established several levels of credentialing: Basic, Senior, Master, Diplomat and Fellowship. Although anyone may belong to ICPC, you cannot be accepted as a credentialed chaplain until you have completed the twelve basic courses of instruction necessary to become a Basic Member.

These 12 courses are: (1) Introduction to Law Enforcement Chaplaincy, (2) Death Notification, (3) Stress Management, (4) Ceremonies and Events, (5) Confidentiality and Legal Liability, (6) Ethics, (7) Responding to a Crisis, (8) Law Enforcement Family, (9) Substance Abuse, (10) Suicide, (11) Officer Death and Injury, (12) Sensitivity and Diversity. Although these 12 seminars are basic, there are many other enriched seminars available dealing with almost any subject connected with law enforcement. A chaplain wishing to advance in rank needs a substantial number of continuing education units and attendance records to move up in rank; and if he or she wishes to become an instructor, there are other educational requirements. There are many chaplains serving law enforcement today who have not been basically trained, some who are excellent in what they do and others who are a detriment to the chaplaincy.

Occasionally, we find someone serving as a chaplain who has falsified his or her record in order to receive a chaplaincy position, and too often the result has been a detriment to some law enforcement agency instead of being complementary. A good chaplaincy brings a wealth of training and caring to a law enforcement agency, but a bad one creates terrible problems. Unfortunately, we have some of this same problem with pastors. If some religious group will hire them, they may become a pastor, but that does not mean they do a good job. Often, they help tear down a church. I personally know of both pastors and chaplains who have either taken some shortcut or falsified their profiles in order to pursue their ambitions. Whenever we can, we report these individuals to the proper authorities.

Members of ICPC are called to care for law enforcement personnel, and are called out for many different kinds of services. Some, like their law enforcement friends, give the ultimate sacrifice in the line-of-duty. ICPC recognized over 100 law enforcement persons killed in the line-of-duty during this past year, and commemorated them at a special ceremony. Being a law enforcement chaplain requires a special calling and we are thankful for the spiritual help and guidance they bring to any law enforcement agency.

• • •

Robert Box has been a law enforcement chaplain for 30 years. He is a master-level chaplain with the International Conference of Police Chaplains and is an endorsed chaplain with the American Baptist Churches USA. He also currently serves as a deputy sheriff chaplain for the Benton County Sheriff's Office. Opinions expressed in the article are the opinions of the author and not the agencies he serves.

Print Headline: Special calling required to be law enforcement chaplain

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