COUNCIL BLUFFS — Those who provide emotional support and spiritual guidance for local police officers are asking for help from the community, as the three chaplains from the Council Bluffs Police Department seek to bolster their ranks.
On Dec. 22, members of the department’s Chaplain Corps met with new police recruits at the Southwest Iowa Law Enforcement Training Center during what Capt. Greg Schultz described as a “mini” police academy.
The occasion, used to help hone skills such as defensive tactics and other facets of law enforcement, was also a good chance for the department’s three chaplains to meet the recruits.
Their message was simple: We are here for you.
However, the chaplains are spread thin and are putting the word out they need more members to better serve those who protect and serve.
The three chaplains currently serving the department are the Revs. Anthony Paff, Dan Stuck and Ken Sewing. Sewing was not present Dec. 22, but Stuck and Paff were joined by Lt. Dan Flores and Chaplain Liaison Sgt. Jill Knotek.
Flores was the chaplain liaison for nine years until Knotek was chosen to succeed him in May and handle the program. Flores said the department’s first chaplain was brought on sometime in the mid-1980s, and their numbers grew to four.
But keeping chaplains around was difficult, as ministers often move for assignments at other churches, Flores said.
“It’s difficult to maintain, so in 2008 we really started focusing on the program and were up to eight chaplains,” Flores said.
Flores said a chaplain’s role in the department is to assist officers and department employees with support through faith. That faith is nondenominational, and proselytizing is not allowed, Flores added.
The three chaplains and Flores have undergone training by the International Conference of Police Chaplains, which seeks to maintain professionalism in law enforcement chaplaincy.
“It means listening to officers and others about their concerns — to support and guide them,” Flores said.
The chaplains stress their availability. Whatever is discussed remains confidential.
Chaplains also assist with death notifications, traveling with a law enforcement member when the family someone who has died is notified. And they help with ceremonies.
Currently each chaplain with the department has a formal background in a faith-based ministry, but Flores said that could someday change. For instance, a layperson, priest, pastor, deacon or other faithful person could become a chaplain.
“As long as you have a heart and can be there for others, we encourage you to contact us,” Flores said.
Knotek said her role as liaison has been challenging as she works to familiarize more members of the department and community with the program.
She said part of her work is letting the officers and employees at the department know the chaplains are there for them, while letting the community know the program needs more members.
“You don’t have to be an ordained minister. It’s not about a specific denomination. We welcome different faiths,” she said. “It’s not about religion. It’s about being able to minister to someone.”
To minister, by one definition, means to attend to the needs of others.
“We do desire some kind of background in faith, but it’s not necessary to be ordained, specifically,” Knotek said.