Saturday, December 10, 2011

Who Says Cops Don't Cry?

Who Says Cops don’t cry…. I would like to say that the title to this piece is original, but it is not.  Curtis Harrelson was the first police chief I served under.  He composed an article by the same title for a professional journal over twenty years ago. It was excellent.  Of course I can’t find the article anywhere!  I officiated at Chief Harrelson’s funeral almost three years ago. I can’t pretend to replicate his thoughts, but the title fits what I feel compelled to share.

Last week marked an important milestone in my 22 year tenure as a law enforcement chaplain.  Granbury Police Department recently hired two new officers that just completed the police academy.  They hit the streets with their field training officers last week. One of those young men graduated from high school in my son’s class.

 My first reaction was: what???!!  I am getting too old. Maybe a younger person could relate more effectively. And then I thought about Joe Corn… Joe was a chaplain I served with years ago who was in his 80’s when I met him. He would ride out on the midnight shift on a regular basis.  The younger officers loved him, and regularly took him home with them to meet their families.

I am not in my 80’s quite yet, but I am opening a new chapter in my perspective on chaplaincy.  I used to think my primary role was to serve members of the community with police officers during times of crisis.  And so for years I have accompanied officers to deliver death notifications, respond to suicide and homicide scenes. I have assisted at drowning incidents and fatality fires. If there is a tragedy that involves police service, I often find myself right beside them at their request.

I will continue to do all of the above to the best of my ability.  But at this point in my career, I am going to drop the word “with” from my chaplaincy vocabulary.  My primary focus from this point on is to serve the servant.  I am not going to serve with police officers.  I am going to serve period… That includes serving them, because after all of these years I know firsthand what they see and experience.

The 22 year old officer that we just hired is yet to see and experience an array of traumatic events. His day is coming. He will witness horrific things that people do to children.  He will see a mother cry for her baby when a child dies unexpectedly. He will serve victims of aggravated robberies and sexual assaults. And he will see kids make really poor choices that impact the rest of their lives. He will document all of these events in carefully composed police reports. But he will also shed a private tear at some point in his career. And I hope to serve that young man as all of this unfolds.  Who says that cops don’t cry? 

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