Ministry on the beat

Chaplains help Ashland police offer spiritual direction on the streets
Sunday, May 30, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:10 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

ASHLAND — As an Ashland police officer brings an intoxicated woman into jail, he is shadowed by a new member of the department — only this man isn’t wearing an officer’s uniform or carrying a gun. He’s the Rev. Jeff Anderson, part of a new chaplaincy program in the Ashland Police Department.

As the woman is turned over to other authorities, Anderson drops a card into her hand and invites her to call him if she needs anything.

“You know, you don’t have to live like this anymore,” he says.

Since starting the job in December, Anderson has assisted officers by providing guidance to people in the midst of emotional distress and counseling those under the influence of intoxicants. It’s a volunteer job; he works full time as pastor of the Cedar Creek Community Church in Ashland.

When Anderson teamed up with officer Mason Lumpkins to bring the chaplaincy program to the department last fall, they had a goal of bringing the community and churches closer together while providing a network of support for the officers. The Ashland City Council unanimously approved the program in October and began accepting applications for chaplains in November.

“Police officers often come into contact with situations where people need help and deal with points of crisis every day,” Anderson said. “They’re often limited by time and resources to how much they can help out, so that’s where we can come in and provide those services.”

“The program is a 50-50 partnership between the churches in the community and the department,” said Lumpkins, who has been a police officer for five years, four of them in Ashland. He is the coordinator of the chaplaincy program.

Money for the chaplains — $700 so far, for chaplain uniforms and training materials — is being raised by a ministerial alliance of churches. A dozen churches make up the Southern Boone Ministerial Alliance, which formed in January 2003. The alliance’s mission is to provide the community with interdenominational support services, such as the chaplaincy program, and to help bring the variety of churches within the town closer together.

Each specially made uniform — a navy blue jacket, polo shirt and baseball cap — costs $150. Jackets have a patch with an Ashland police chaplain insignia. The uniforms are meant to distinguish the chaplains from the officers but still portray them as part of a team.

The Rev. Dan Hayes of Family of Christ Lutheran Church also serves as chaplain for the Ashland department. Both he and Anderson said that being a chaplain has given them an appreciation for what a police officer does on a daily basis.

“Part of Christ’s command is to love your neighbor and serve your community,” Hayes said. “Although it’s hard to gauge what this program has done so far, I’ve noticed that in my interaction with officers there’s a receptiveness, and I’ve even had some of the officers visit me at home when they just want to talk.”

Anderson said that while he is riding with officers and watches them make a traffic stop on a busy highway or handle other incidents, he’s praying for the their safety. “I pray for these officers every day,” he said. “Whether they believe in it or not, they appreciate it.”

During ride-alongs, chaplains can assist in providing an extra measure of safety. “We’ve received radio training, and we know how to work it so we could call for help in case something goes wrong,” Hayes said.

Lumpkins said the program was modeled after the Missouri Highway Patrol’s chaplaincy program.

Ashland chaplains attend the same basic academy as highway patrol chaplains, Lumpkins said. “Chaplains receive firearms training, learn basic first aid and are trained on how to deal with death notification,” he said.

Although the chaplains do receive firearms training, they do not carry guns. In addition to the training received from the highway patrol, chaplains are required to work 12 hours a month doing ride-alongs, make jail visits and complete in-service training.

Capt. Ronald Walker, an assistant bureau commander with the Missouri Highway Patrol, coordinates the patrol’s statewide chaplaincy program.

“We have over 40 active chaplains in our program,” Walker said. “It is a volunteer program that is not focused on the citizens but on providing services to the troopers.”

Walker explained that running a program on a statewide basis compared with a city department can be challenging because of the variety of demands and the changing geography throughout the state.

“We started the program about six or seven years ago to fill a void that we felt like we had in the highway patrol,” Walker said. “There’s an acceptable type of care for medical and mental health needs, but we really didn’t have a way to provide spiritual care. I think it’s been successful.”

The ministerial alliance in Ashland recently formed a community fund to serve as an emergency resource for chaplains to provide services to people in need.

So far, the fund has been used to assist stranded motorists on Highway 63, buy gas for families passing through the area and provide meals.

“Our vision for this program is to provide an ecumenical resource to the citizens of southern Boone County and be able to provide assistance to the fire department and other law enforcement departments within mid-Missouri,” Lumpkins said.

Anderson said he would like to see other towns such as Columbia and Jefferson City start a chaplaincy program within their police departments.

“We don’t see ourselves or the church as the answer to every problem, but we know we can provide a resource to those in need,” he said. “We’re not doing this to be famous — we just want to be a catalyst.”

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