Police Chaplains Helping Cops, Families with Bad News
Delivering families the news of a death or a severe accident isn’t the easiest task for law enforcement officials, so dozens of departments across New Jersey have enlisted outside help to deal with these and other sensitive situations.
Police chaplains are serving as a bridge between law enforcement and families. They’re trained in crisis intervention and are on call 24-7 as volunteers.
Towns throughout New Jersey – Jackson, Maple Shade, Millville and Stafford, for example – use the chaplains as emotional backup on calls that may be difficult for a cop to handle on their own.
“We’re there for anything and everything,” said Gary Holden, CEO of The Police Chaplain Program of New Jersey.
A chaplain, who must also be a credentialed clergyperson, could be utilized on a domestic call or when a youth is arrested for a severe crime. Perhaps when they’re most needed, though, is in the event of a sudden death.
“We would do death notifications,” Holden said. “We would go with the police to notify the family.”
It takes a special person to deliver this kind of news, as well as a special approach. Holden said their training devotes a course completely to death notifications.
The New Jersey group offers an intense, two-day training program for would-be chaplains. In the past three years, according to Holden, they’ve trained up to 600 people.
About 50 New Jersey police departments have a chaplain program in place, with dozens more pending.
Although chaplains are members of a certain faith, they serve on a non-sectarian basis in the field.