- Associated Press - Friday, September 18, 2015

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) - There were no police chaplains on duty when Ed Davis worked as an officer, though he wished there had been.

“(Officers) see things, they hear things and they do things they can’t take home with them,” said Davis, who served as an officer in California, Missouri and Wyoming before retiring from law enforcement.

He’s now a full-time minister, serving as pastor at Connections, a Church of the Nazarene in Laramie. He’s also one of three chaplains at the Laramie Police Department.

He’s joined by Brad Eakins, pastor at Emmaus Road Community Church in Laramie, and Mike Berry, pastor at First Christian Church in Laramie.

The challenges through which the chaplains help officers can be complicated, but the core of their mission is simple, Davis said.

“It’s a ministry of presence,” he said.

“It can mean going on a ride-along or having coffee or lunch with officers,” Eakins said. “If they ever need to talk, we’re just available to help them.”

Each of the chaplains works 4-6 hours a week for the department. Though it’s a volunteer position, the chaplains had to go through the same background checks and hiring process all full-time LPD employees must complete.

For Christian officers, the chaplains offer prayerful and biblical support and advice. They’re also ready and able to support any officers, regardless of their beliefs.

Stress is a constant in law enforcement, Eakins said.

“Offers have to be on high alert at all times when they’re on duty,” he said. “That’s a unique kind of pressure to deal with.”

Eakins first worked with law enforcement through his ministry as a jail chaplain in Goshen County.

“I was pulled into that reluctantly, but it turned into some of the most rewarding ministry I’ve ever had,” Eakins said.

Almost without exception, police officers choose that line of work because they want to help people, the chaplains said. But the effects on their lives and families can be unexpected and trying.

“They see the negative or bad parts of our community so much,” Eakins said. “We can help them see the good things they might not get to see.”

FAMILY MATTERS

Officers’ spouses often find themselves taking on the role of a supporter. But that can be frustrating, because officers sometimes can’t talk about the things that trouble them the most.

Until a matter is resolved in court, the officers involved can’t discuss it, even with their spouses, Davis said. That can lead to frustration and bottled-up feelings, which can be toxic to a marriage.

Police chaplains can help couples and families through those difficult times, Davis said. He also encourages officers and their families to spend “quiet time” together, completely away from anything having to do with the job.

Police tend to stick together, and even when they socialize outside of work, end up talking only about the job - which can make their spouses and families feel left out, Davis said. Avoiding shop talk during social gatherings can mitigate that, and help family and other loved ones feel included, he said.

COMMUNITY RELATIONS

Situations involving the police usually aren’t pleasant, and people often aren’t happy to see them. Nationwide controversies involving police add to the stress and negativity, Davis said.

Sometimes people “don’t fully understand that officers live and work here, this is their community too,” he said. “How would you feel if somebody walked up to you and said, ‘you’re not welcome here?’”

Eakins has been an LPD chaplain for six years, while Davis has served for three years and Berry roughly four months.

Being the new guy has largely involved getting to know the officers, LPD staff and their families, Berry said.

“It’s fun getting to know all these people,” he said. “There’s a bond there that, unless you’re part of that law enforcement community, you never know.”

Berry, Davis and Eakins credited Chief Dale Stalder for his staunch support of the chaplain program, which has included ongoing training.

That’s helped them identify with the officers, Eakins said.

“These guys and gals are constantly training,” he said.

The Chaplains participate with officers in many activities, such as the annual 9/11 Stair Climb in War Memorial Stadium.

“They love that, us doing the physical stuff together,” Eakins said. “It really connects us on a deeper level of camaraderie.”

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Information from: Laramie Boomerang, http://www.laramieboomerang.com

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