Traditionally, chaplains’ roles have been ceremonial; they are called upon for banquets, funerals, blessings, and weddings. They are well-meaning and primarily volunteer people of faith, having a heart and hand in assisting first responders and their local agencies.
But the days of the ceremonial chaplain are over if we genuinely want operational effectiveness. First responders need support in very specific ways. The unique and habitual stressors placed on them, along with critical incidents like officer-involved shootings, must be approached by properly trained chaplains because most first responders are hesitant about discussing personal concerns with so-called “outsiders.” With the significant and ever-changing environment facing first responders, a new model of chaplaincy is essential. First responders need and deserve properly trained chaplains embedded in their departments, going beyond merely enthusiastic or sympathetic clergy occasionally appearing here and there.