A Day In The Life of A Police Chaplain
by Senior Pastor Mark Hattabaugh, Cooper City, FL
The UPCI has been a movement who’s vision and passion has been “The Whole Gospel To The Whole World!” Various ministries have been formed and designed to meet this vision we all share. One of these is Occupational Chaplains Association. This is a ministry where we focus on training men and women to serve in various roles available to chaplains. The main areas we focus on are Occupational Chaplains, Hospital/Hospice Chaplains and Law Enforcement/Fire Chaplains. We provide training and certification to prepare men and women to serve in their communities.
Being a volunteer police chaplain allows me to see a side of the Police Department that most civilians never get to see. With all of the bad publicity and certainly even some bad actions by a few officers who wear a badge, some in the community have lost some of their confidence and respect for our Law Enforcement family. I would like to change that attitude.
I ride along with Police Officers all the time, I’m even in their homes counseling their families. I am standing by caskets and holding family members hands, and sometimes I’m in an office counseling married couples. I'm sitting down to have coffee with them while on duty. I pull up on scenes in homes that are torn apart, and maybe help someone trying to get home. Yes, sometimes we pull over people who are simply absent minded but some who have purposely broken the law.
I can't tell you how many times these officers have treated the community with such respect and such dignity - many times with people who have been pulled over and are rude and disrespectful - and yet they've kept their professionalism and their composure.
One of the most difficult things that most civilians do not understand is the fact that police officers go from one call to another (there is no time to process the trauma or heartache). In other words, you are not the only person coming into contact with that officer on that day.
The officer who just pulled you over, may have just come from a child drowning, or a domestic violence abuse situation - or, from helping a young lady who has been raped, or assisting a child who has been strung out on drugs. He may have just interviewed a family that has been robbed and have lost their sense of dignity and security.
We tend to only see the flashing blue lights behind us - the inconvenience of having to pull our cars over for some infraction that we have committed. That's all we see. We don't see the officer pulling away from us, scratching his head - still heavy with a load from the call that came from before pulling you over, and is now headed to another difficult call.
So today, as you drive and see an officer pass you by, or pull someone over, I pray that you have compassion, and I pray that you have respect, and it would certainly be good to say a prayer for them and their family. That day, when they walked out of their home, their family said goodbye to them, not knowing if they would return that evening.
Yes, we all know that there are some bad cops, politicians, doctors, and even some bad preachers, but that is not to erase the fact that police officers are precious human beings who put on a badge every day because they took an oath to serve and protect you and I in our communities. Daily they put their own lives at risk, even when the very communities they are protecting and serving are sometimes the ones that are being so rude and disrespected and even threatening their very lives.
Today, we lost one of our own, not in the line of duty, it was from natural causes. Nevertheless, the family of the police department came together, rallied together, cried together, and tried to make sense of the fact that we may never be able to truly thank them for their sacrifice. Today a 9-year-old boy, an 18-year-old girl and a wife of many years - who had shared their dad, husband and their son with the community said goodbye for the last time.
Heroes sometimes wear a badge, and sometimes they don't come home. Pray for them, respect them, and know that they have feelings just like everybody else. Today, as I walk through the halls of our police department, there are many tears being shed, as well as heavy hearts.
We had to drive to the home of the wife, children and parents of the officer that we lost today. At our police department we had a debriefing with the officers and especially with those that served on the squad with him. The room was very tense, very quiet and very solemn. One thing that you will notice across the nation is that when an officer dies, all police officers are going to have a black stripe across their badge - this is sign of mourning. As I put one over my badge today I was again reminded of how we are all a family. We all come to serve our community. We all want to see the families in our communities live in safety, and most importantly to get home each night - safely.
May God Bless and continue to protect all of the men and women who are protecting us.
If you would like more information about training or becoming a member of the Occupational Chaplains Association, please visit us here: http://www.ocachaplains.com
Sr. Pastor - The Pentecostals of Cooper City
Miramar Police Department - Broward County Florida
Occupational Chaplain Association
Director of Law Enforcement/Fire Chaplains