Statistics are often nothing more than cold hard facts. Here’s the humanity behind the statistics: “She was a very happy person, always laughing with everyone here at the department,” is how Lt. Jason Samspell described Sergeant Kelly Jo Brubaker. On Tuesday evening, November 19th, 2019, officers pulled Kelly Jo’s body out of the surf on Daytona Beach. The cause of death wasn’t from drowning, it was from a gunshot wound—a self-inflicted gunshot. The 49-year-old Orange City (FL) veteran sergeant is survived by her children.
Now for the cold hard facts. Last year, there were 141 law enforcement officer line-of-duty deaths. But more tragic is that 228 law enforcement and correction officers died by suicide. A September 2019 study revealed:
“Police officers are at a higher risk of suicide than any other profession. In fact, suicide is so prevalent in the profession that the number of police officers who died by suicide is more than triple that of officers who were fatally injured in the line of duty. Researchers are attributing these statistics to the unique combination of easy access to deadly weapons, intense stress, and human devastation that police are exposed to on a daily basis.”
Can this trend be reversed? Yes; and I believe one critical way is through professional police chaplaincy programs—programs that minister to officers and their families. Law enforcement chaplaincy programs are rather recent ministries. The oldest professional programs in America only date back to the 1970’s. Why? Law enforcement officers come from our society, and prior to the 1970’s most people (including officers) regularly attended church. Church provided a spiritual foundation. A foundation that God exists and that he is working to redeem the world from sin. Faith was in God. Things have changed. People, including officers, aren’t in church like they used to be. A recent study showed that only two in ten Millennials believe church attendance is important.
This resulted in faith shifting from God to humanity; and therein lies the problem. Unchurched officers have little or no spiritual foundation and no minister to be at their side in times of crisis. Police chaplaincy programs seek to meet the needs of both the law enforcement community and the general public by providing professionally trained chaplains. The intent isn’t for chaplains to replace the Church but supplement it by being available to people at times when they most need someone. It’s taking the Church outside the sanctuary to places where things aren’t so safe—into the lives of people in crisis.
Although there are several professional law enforcement chaplain programs across the country, Southeast Idaho doesn’t have the type of program I believe is needed to serve our officers and our community. Over the last year, the spiritual needs of law enforcement officers and their families became a heavy burden on my heart and prompted me to resign from River of Life Church effective June 30, 2020. I’m shifting my ministry focus to law enforcement officers, ministering to them through The Strong Blue Line Ministries and a new chaplaincy program that’s just getting started, Law Enforcement Chaplaincy of Idaho (LECI).
Chaplain Christa Trinchera and her husband Gio will be relocating to Idaho Falls from Southern California to help start the program. Christa, the daughter of a retired California Highway Police Officer, is currently a chaplain with Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Sacramento and brings with her a ton of experience and expertise. So far, we have presented the program to Bonneville County Sheriff Wilde and Captain Hulse, Idaho Falls Chief Johnson and his command staff, and Idaho State Police Captain Davis. All these administrators showed a lot of interest in the program and believe it will benefit both their agency and the community.
In January, Rett Nelson from East Idaho News wrote an article on LECI that you can read by clicking here. Last month, Gary Austin from Revelation Radio interviewed Christa and me. You can listen to the interview by clicking here. For more information, please go to ChaplainsOfIdaho.org.
Please keep this new program in your prayers as we seek support from law enforcement agencies, local businesses, churches, and volunteers to serve as chaplains.Pray for your police.