When I became a police chaplain almost 25 years ago, I thought all I had to do was grab my Bible, flashlight, and cap before hopping into the seat of a police cruiser. I had visions of riding along with officers who would be open about their problems, want to talk about issues, and thank me for being there for them. Boy was I wrong.
Officers thought I was a pipeline back to the chief and that all I wanted to do was see them converted and singing in my church choir. Thankfully, we were both wrong.
Today, after retiring from over two decades on the job as a law enforcement chaplain and counselor, I can truthfully say that what I have learned can save you years of grief in trying to understand cops.
Law enforcement is a subculture all its own. If I had known that, I'd have saved myself a lot of grief. By the same token, however, I wouldn't have learned these important lessons to share with chaplains and counselors who want to be effective with our men and women in blue.
I stumbled along for five years attempting to learn what makes policemen and women tick, along with the nuances of the job. I determined that there is a "blue circle," or "blue line," as some officers call it. You could also call it a yellow line, which refers to yellow and black crime scene tape. Civilians are on the outside of the tape, and officers are on the inside. It is a clear line of demarcation. Officers, civilian crime scene investigators, communications operators, unit secretaries, and clean up crews are allowed inside the tape. Everyone else, including the media, is on the outside. One recent addition to the group allowed inside that blue circle or yellow line is police chaplains.
There is an additional group of "holy of holies," so to speak. It is a small core inside the infamous blue circle, and only cops are allowed inside that club. Try as they might to get in, it is a place where non-sworn personnel are excluded.
While law enforcement chaplains who have earned their stripes are able to function and apply their wares inside the blue circle, as well as across the yellow tape, they aren't usually allowed into the core. That omission creates a void of chaplaincy services when they are needed the most.
To combat that issue, some chaplains choose to enter the law enforcement academy and become commissioned officers. That makes them a bigger part of the brotherhood of the badge. It also allows them inside that core where the real business is done--the inner circle where cops only talk to other cops.
After five years on the streets as...
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