Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) across America are hurting. Many are overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness. This reality recently hit the Chicago Police Department (CPD) when two officers in the span of five days died by suicide. This comes after another CPD officer killed himself in January. Following the third suicide, Police Superintendent David Brown said, “It has been one of the most tragic weeks we’ve had. This is the third officer suicide since I have been superintendent. It has been a challenging 11, 12 months for officers and their families.”
The CPD suicides prompted the city to hire a mental health specialist to a provide “an outside perspective of officer wellness.” Mental health professionals are good at assessing and treating mental illnesses, but what if the emotional injury doesn’t stem from a mental health issue? What if it’s a spiritual health issue? Who better to help officers and their families address spiritual health issues than clergy, especially a chaplain specially trained to serve LEOs?
Police chaplaincy started to take off in America in the 1970s when many agencies recognized the benefit to having chaplains available to their officers. Now, fifty years later, the need is even greater. I believe the need has grown because many in today’s society are unchurched and have little to no spiritual education. A new poll confirms the decline in church membership. According to Gallup, over the pass 80 years, church membership has dropped from a high of 76% after World War II to 47%. The significant drop marks the first-time church membership dropped below 50%. The poll cited the following breakdown between age groups: of those born prior to 1946, 66% claimed church membership. This compares to 58% of Baby Boomers, 50% for Gen X, and only 36% of Millennials. This means, of all LEOs under 40, only two-thirds claim church membership. It’s no wonder spiritual injury has increased.
Along with a body and mind (or soul) we are spiritual beings. Law enforcement agencies have always trained the body to survive a lethal encounter and have, in recent years, begun to train officers how to mentally survive a deadly force encounter. But the spirit remains untrained, and even more so in recent years with the decline in church membership. The goal of chaplains is not to replace the Church, but to minister outside the Church with the goal of spiritual renewal and will, in the end, encourage officers to seek out a local church to help them build a solid spiritual foundation.
Over the years, law enforcement chaplaincies have made great strides in providing specialized training to help chaplains minister to LEOs, their families, agency employees, and the public at large. The three ministries I’m connected with (The Strong Blue Line, Cop Church, and the Law Enforcement Chaplaincy of Idaho) are all committed to serving the law enforcement family and strive to make resources accessible to LEOs, their families, and the community.
LECI Hosts LEO/Spouse dinner
On March 21st, the Law Enforcement Chaplaincy of Idaho hosted a special dinner for LEOs in East Idaho. Nearly 100 officers and their spouses from all across southeast Idaho attended the free prime rib dinner. There were also several retired officers and their spouses in attendance. While there were retired officers from Alaska, Texas, and Idaho, the one state most represented was California…and more are coming! Sounds like the punchline of a joke, “What do you call a retired California cop?” Answer: “An Idahoan!” Not only are retired officers moving here, but there are also several active officers accepting lateral transfers to the Gem State. This provides and ever-increasing pool of LEOs to connect with and serve.
We have a new way to easily support the LECI and its service to our community. If you shop with Amazon, please considering using the Amazon Smile platform. When you sign-up with LECI and order via Amazon Smile, a portion of your purchase is directed to the LECI. This comes at no cost to the customer; Amazon donates a percentage out of its profits. To find out more or to sign-up click here.
Both Cop Church services in March were special events. On the first Sunday, we co-hosted Clifton Jansky, the 2004 Christian Country Entertainer of the Year. It was a great concert, and we had an amazing turn out! The third Sunday was the day of the LECI dinner. For those who weren’t able to be here, we videoed the event and hope to have the video available soon.Pray for your police.