Becoming a Police Chaplain

What is a Police Chaplain?

A police chaplain is a chaplain who serves in a precinct and works primarily with police officers to provide support and counseling. A chaplain is a little different from a traditional minister in that chaplains primarily work in secular areas—police departments, hospitals, military bases, prisons, etc. While chaplains, including police chaplains, are fully ordained and can lead a church, they are generally called ministers, pastors, or some other term in that case.

Police chaplains work in conjunction with police departments, sheriff departments, and other law enforcement groups to provide counseling, support, and other services to law enforcement personnel. This does mean talking with officers who have gone through traumatic experiences, but it also means visiting those who are injured, speaking to the family of an officer who died in the line of duty, and giving prayers at certain events. In most cases, a police chaplain offers religious counseling in addition to the ministers of an officer’s church. They don’t usually hold church services for the precinct or police station.

Police Chaplain Duties and Qualities

A police chaplain is a specially trained chaplain who works mainly with law enforcement personnel. If you’re going to be a police chaplain, you will have to fulfill all of the religious and educational requirements to be a full-fledged minister in your church. This means you could, if you later wanted to, lead a church congregation. You will, as an ordained person, have the authority to marry people and provide other types of rites. However, a police chaplain is more or less a minister without a church, so you may not often be called upon to perform these duties.

In some cases, especially in smaller precincts, the police chaplain is an unpaid position. A minister from a nearby church may volunteer to visit the station a few times a week to talk with the officers, or police officers may know to seek out the minister in times of need. However, generally these chaplains do go through an application process because not every minister is cut out to be a police chaplain.

That’s because police chaplains have to have more than just a deep faith and a calling to the ministry. Working with officers requires a greater understanding of loss and what it means for someone to be going through a period of intense grief. Officers may confront death on a regular basis, and very few go through their entire careers without being put in a threatening position. As their chaplain, you have to know how to approach these situations and help the officers through them.

You may be called upon to offer up prayers at specific public events, too, so you’ll need to have confidence in your public speaking duties. While this may not occur very often, you should expect to occasionally need to speak in public. In some cases, you may even need to officiate at an officer’s funeral.

Steps to Become a Police Chaplain

Becoming a police chaplain is, in many ways, very similar to becoming a chaplain of any type. Before you enter the field, you will need to have the following:

  • Have a strong faith and desire to work with those who are in high-risk situations on a daily basis.
  • Earn a bachelor’s degree in an area such as religion or counseling.
  • Consider a master’s degree.
  • Get ordained.
  • Complete a residency or internship if required.
  • Get licensed.
  • Must have a clean criminal record with no criminal convictions or offenses involving moral turpitude

All police chaplains, despite their work location, are fully trained, licensed, and ordained chaplains. They could minister at a church or lead other religious programs if they wanted to. This means that in order to hold a job as a police chaplain, you’ll need to have at least a bachelor’s degree, become ordained, and get certified. The requirements vary from state to state, and many precincts are looking for police chaplains who hold master’s degrees in the field.

Religious Requirements

In order to work as a police chaplain, you have to be ordained through your church. This is because police chaplains basically take on the officers of the prescient as their congregation. They offer counseling and advice to these officers about their lives, and because that can involve discussing life or death circumstances, police chaplains need all of the training than an ordained minister needs. While the process for ordination is different from church to church, in most cases you will need to have a degree, a strong faith, and be approved by a board of elders in your church.

Education Requirements

Working as a police chaplain requires that you hold a bachelor’s degree. Most often, this degree will be in religion, and many chose programs that are designed to prepare them to go into the ministry. Some also get degrees in psychology. Taking courses in religion prepares them for the religious side of being a chaplain: they do an in-depth study of the Bible, learn how to approach topics using religion, and more.

Taking courses in psychology, even if it’s only a few courses or is a minor area of study, can be incredibly helpful. These courses will teach you various counseling techniques and how to work with people who are dealing with extreme stress or grief. Grief counseling is especially vital for a police chaplain because officers may lose co-workers in the line of work or may develop fear of losing someone.

The Importance of Accreditation

In order to graduate with a degree recognized by a number of professional organizations, you need to attend a university that is fully accredited by a third-party independent evaluation organization. These organizations will often accredit a university bachelor’s degree based on the professors, the courses taught, and how knowledge graduates are. There are many different accreditation organizations. However, in order to be better positioned for certification, you should look for universities that have been accredited by the Council for Higher Education Association (CHEA). Those who hold degrees from CHEA-accredited universities may be able to skip some steps in becoming certified.

When it comes to graduate degrees, you want to look for schools that have been accredited by one of the different organizations that specifically evaluate and accredit religion programs and seminaries. The three major organizations that accredit these programs are the Transnational Association for Christian Colleges and Schools, the Association of Theological Schools, and the Association for Biblical Higher Education.

Master's Degrees for Chaplaincy Candidates

In past years, master’s degrees were not always required for certification or to find work as a police chaplain. However, today many jobs do require certification, which requires a graduate degree in religion. Holding a graduate degree will make it much easier to get a job, plus it will provide you with further training and education in the areas of religious studies, counseling, and leadership. Again, make certain the university or seminary you attend is accredited by one on of the recognized organizations.

Program Objectives and Goals

The goal of graduate programs in religion is to prepare students to enter into the ministry and become leaders in the church. Many of these programs don’t specifically aim to educate students to be police chaplains, but some do offer courses aimed at counseling and leading congregations of people with unusual needs, including police officers. The programs aim to teach graduates everything it takes to lead a church, including providing training and education in the areas of church administration, Biblical counseling, public speaking, and more.

Earning Practical Experience

You may be required to work with a certified chaplain before you qualify to work as a police chaplain. It depends on the state regulations and the precinct at which you’re applying. This practice experience functions like a residency or internship and can last for up to two years. It provides you with practical work experience while still offering the support of a supervisor and the resources of a fully licensed and experienced police chaplain.

The Police Chaplain Program also provides further practical experience and training. This program, a nonprofit organization, provides courses, training, and consultations to chaplains who are serving the police force.

Chaplain Licensing and Certification

For most chaplain jobs, you’re going to need to pass the Association for Professional Chaplains (APC) certification program. This program is designed to make certain that you are trained and ready to work in the field. In order to gain APC certification, you have to be ordained and endorsed by your church, have earned a master’s degree, and complete four units of the Clinical Pastoral Education program.

This program can be as much as an addition year of education and training, but it focuses more on working in the field than some degree programs do. These courses are offered by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education. Most of their units take about three months to complete.

Police Chaplain Jobs & Job Description

Committed to those who ensure safety for members of the public, police chaplains work to provide the best resources, interventions, and support for the mental and spiritual well being of law enforcement individuals.  While the role does vary from department to department, most police chaplains are comfortable performing the following duties:

  • Provide sacramental ministries like marriages and funerals
  • Provide counseling opportunities for officers
  • Provide counseling to civilian members of the police department
  • Provide counseling to officers’ families
  • Visit ill or injured officers and their family members
  • Create death notifications and contribute to obituary information
  • Provide counseling, resources and assistance to victims
  • Participate in hostage negotiations
  • Lead classes and seminars for law enforcement personnel in areas such as stress management, ethics, family life and depression
  • Provide resources for personnel in areas such as stress management, marital relationships, and ethics
  • Participate in the crisis response stress team for officers and their family members
  • Assist family and officers at suicide incidents
  • Serve as liaison and subject matter expert with other faiths and clergy in the community
  • Provide informed and empathetic responses to questions of a religious, ethical or vocational nature
  • Advise the chief on insights to staff morale and spiritual well-being
  • Offer prayers at various ceremonies and events
  • Participate on various boards and committees
  • Assist officers in accessing spiritual, emotional, and other supports in their community
  • Assist officers’ friends and family in accessing community resources
  • Facilitate and counsel officers’ family meetings
  • Educate officers and ranking staff members on spiritual and religious issues
  • Conduct communications and empathy training for officers and their families
  • Assist officers’ families in processing anger while grieving loss of a family member
  • Orient new law enforcement personnel
  • Liaise with state and national professional organizations
  • Administer religious programs
  • Collaborate with faith teams to provide a variety of accessible worship experiences
  • Network and partner with external faith-based groups
  • Empower interfaith dialogue within the department
  • Help officers and personnel find peace of mind
  • Ensure that personnel of all religions and traditions are offered equal opportunity to practice their faith
  • Offer crisis pastoral counseling to officers and families in need
  • Coordinate pastoral volunteer services as appropriate
  • Maintain materials and worship space
  • Help officers reconcile their viewpoints of spirituality, religion and vocation

Professional Associations for Police Chaplains

As a professional chaplain, you may want to become a full member of the APC or of another professional organization. The APC is a nondenominational group, which means that it provides resources about counseling police officers from a number of different points of view. The association also gives police chaplains a chance to talk to those in other industries who do the same type of work, which can be very helpful for learning new ways of approaching patients and their issues.

Organization/AssociationContact Information

International Conference of Police Chaplains

P.O. Box 5590
Destin, FL 32540
(850) 654-9736

American Police Chaplains Association

P.O. Box 900
1443 W. Stanley Road
Mt. Morris, MI 48458
(810) 564-9648
International Police and Fire Chaplains Association

9393 Pardee Road
Taylor, MI 48180
(313) 291-2571

International Fellowship of Chaplains

P.O. Box 5488
Hudson, FL 34667
(989) 753-3211