Many police departments have chaplaincy programs that assist police offers and their families with spiritual and emotional support during stressful or traumatic events. Police chaplains often will ride with another officer and can act as a liaison between officers and medical support teams relating bad news to family members or putting a civilian in touch with the civilian’s preferred member of the clergy. Becoming a police chaplain involves becoming an ordained chaplain, meeting various police department requirements for experience and following through with any trainings or classes the police department requires.
Contact your local police or sheriff’s department and ask if the department has an existing chaplain program. If they do, speak to the person in charge of recruiting new chaplains and find out what the requirements are to become a chaplain within that police or sheriff’s department. Each police department has its own set of requirements. If they don’t have a current chaplain program, express interest in working with necessary personnel to begin one.
Become an ordained chaplain either through traditional or nontraditional methods. Traditional methods include obtaining a bachelor’s degree in divinity or theology and receiving ordination paperwork from a local church denomination. Nontraditional methods include seeking ordination via online ordinations services or churches where an applicant must complete an application, agree to the organization’s code of ethics and pay any applicable fees to receive the proper ordination credentials (See resources.) The organization that ordains you is the same one that will endorse you for chaplain service. Keep in mind that, although receiving ordination credentials on line is considered a legal ordination, police departments are not required to accept such credentials.
Make sure you have fulfilled any previous pastoral experience the department requires. Some police departments require that you have been in the role of a pastor for a certain length of time where you were actively preaching, leading worship services, counseling congregants, and performing marriages, funerals and more on a regular basis.
Attend any required trainings or classes provided by the police or sheriff's department. Trainings or classes can range from a one-day seminar to several classes in self-defense, crisis counseling, death notification and emergency procedures. You will also need to provide references and participate in a background check. Once you have satisfactorily completed all the requirements to become a chaplain for a specific department, you can begin work as a police chaplain.
- Be polite when inquiring about existing chaplain programs. If the department is not interested in starting a chaplain program, do not push the issue and continue contacting other police or sheriff's departments in your area.
- Carefully consider the various types of situations you may find yourself in as a police chaplain. Riding with a police officer may expose you to violent and potentially life threatening situations. Advising a victim's next of kin of a relative's death can result in reactions of shock, anger or violent outbursts and you must have proper training to handle these situations.
Items you will need
- Phone (optional)
- Ecclesiastical endorsement
- Bachelor's degree in Divinity or Theology (optional)
- Pastoral experience (optional)
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