Ashland police are looking to the clergy for a helping hand.
The town in southern Boone County, which starts its city council meetings with a prayer, plans to provide officers with chaplains to counsel them on difficulties encountered in their personal lives or on the job.
The Ashland City Council unanimously approved a chaplaincy program on Oct. 7, and the police department is preparing to recruit volunteer chaplains to work with officers as soon as mid-November.
Officer Mason Lumpkins said several pastors had expressed interest in working with the department during his three years as a town officer.
“It’s always been an act on the part of the church, wanting to get involved in local government, in the local community,” Lumpkins said.
The Rev. Jeff Anderson, a pastor with Cedar Creek Community Church, helped get the program off the ground.
“We were talking about some of the things that police officers face, especially in tragedies or crisis or critical incidents,” Anderson said. “They see a lot of need, and they’re constrained quite often by their duty as a police officer.”
Chief Mel Rupard estimated the training cost at $50 per chaplain and said during the council meeting that the money would come from the department’s training budget. As many as three volunteer chaplains will be trained to meet the needs of Ashland’s five police officers and four reserve officers.
The department lost two officer positions two years ago.
“We have more responsibility and less manpower to handle those responsibilities,” Lumpkins said. “Roughly, our case load is equal to where it was when we had more officers.”
“Some of the local churches are going to make donations each year to try and underwrite the costs,” Lumpkins said.
The police department also wants to provide the chaplains with uniforms to distinguish them from the officers when out on call.
The Ashland police department modeled its chaplaincy program on one used by the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which will provide some training for Ashland’s chaplains, Lumpkins said.
The police chaplains would be unique in their ability to provide support on issues they understand as part of the police department.
“Some of the things that are experienced in law enforcement, you just can’t talk to people about,” Lumpkins said.
“We don’t want to push this program onto any particular officer,” he said. “Chaplains might offer to ride with them, but ultimately it’s going to be left to the officer whether to have the chaplain on a ride-along.”
Speaking of occasions when police chaplains would be interacting with civilians, Lumpkins said, “I think more people would be thrown off by a police officer with a badge and a gun showing up than by a chaplain.”
The application process will be open to any ministers, he said.
“I would probably dare to say that it would be harder to find counselors who are willing to volunteer their time as it would be to find ministers,” he said, explaining why the department is seeking ministers.
Both want to help people, he said, but “their motivations are somewhat different.”