BCM Chaplains Carry A Badge
SHARE THE BEAT TO SUPPORT NEW ORLEANS POLICE OFFICERS
Police officers in New Orleans face immense daily challenges. They also have support—chaplains from Baptist Community Ministries.
For more than a decade, BCM chaplains have stood with police officers at crime scenes, in times of loss and crisis, on days marked by violence and stress and on occasions of achievement and hope. Typically, only the country’s largest police departments have experienced, board-certified chaplains assigned daily to each district. But thanks to the relationship of trust among BCM chaplains and NOPD, officers have this spiritual nurturing.
“We’re on the front lines,” says BCM police chaplain Joe Cull. “We’re honored to be allowed to be there with the officers. Officers have an additional resource for their spiritual and emotional needs- –even if it is simply a listening ear and non-judging presence.”
Over the years, he adds, officers have told him that part of the reason they may feel more comfortable coming to an NOPD chaplain than their own pastor is because “we are out there with them” or “we see what they see.”
Police chaplain June Wilder believes chaplains foster a sense of healing, peace and comfort in times of great stress. “I’ve had several officers tell me that at a bad crime scene, they see the chaplain and, knowing we are there, they can relax a bit and focus better on doing their jobs.”
When an officer was killed last year while investigating an accident, BCM chaplains were present on the scene, at the hospital and among the officers. They reached out to everyone who was grieving and comforted family members. Cull says, “We were primarily a ministry of presence that day in many ways. We offered prayer, a listening ear. There was a lot of frustration and anger. We offered empathy and were deeply appreciated by the rank.”
During 2016, New Orleans had more shootings per capita than Chicago. NOPD responded to an average of 10 shootings a week, with a person killed in one-third of these incidents. Last year’s non-fatal shootings went up seven percent and gun murders rose five percent, over 2015.
Board-certified chaplains have extensive training and must meet established professional standards equal in scope to earning a doctoral degree. With NOPD under a federal consent decree, chaplains are helping to support the new employee support program, a requirement of the decree. BCM chaplains are working in conjunction with the new program staff to bring even more resources to officers.
Says Wilder, “In law enforcement you have to earn trust. Officers trust us, I believe, literally with their lives. It’s important to never break that trust. Confidentiality is important, and we follow the same confidentiality as a priest or a professional counselor.”
Last year, BCM chaplains made 102,164 ministry contacts in the following areas: