Prince George’s Co. seeks to increase number of police chaplains
To provide additional support, the Prince George County Police Department in Maryland hopes to more than triple its number of five volunteer police chaplains to serve its nearly 1,500 police officers.
With the rise in gun violence and scrutiny, it’s not an easy time to be a police officer. To provide additional support, the Prince George County Police Department in Maryland hopes to more than triple its number of five volunteer police chaplains to serve its nearly 1,500 officers.
“Officers see the best and the worst in society. Unfortunately when you watch movies you see cops shooting people, the next day they drink coffee and everything is fine. This is not the way it works in real life, ”said Claudio Consuegra, senior police chaplain for Prince George County.
For the past 35 years, the last 10 in Prince George County, Consuegra, a pastor with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, has volunteered as a police chaplain and helps lead efforts to recruit more volunteer pastors.
“We are looking for Christian pastors, priests, Jewish rabbis, Muslim imams, anyone with specific training in a faith-based religion,” Consuegra said.
Like all police services in the region, Prince George County Police have mental health therapists, legal counsel and peer support to help officers cope with stress, anxiety and trauma. that accompany public security work.
Consuegra, who has volunteered as a police chaplain in 12 different agencies in six states, said the spiritual element provided by chaplains can also be a powerful healing tool for officers who see and experience things other people never do.
“Not only what do I find, but research has shown that those who deal with trauma from a spiritual perspective tend to heal faster and better than those who don’t deal with spirituality at all,” Consuegra said.
Captain Susan Smith, Deputy Commanding Officer of Beltsville Station and 26-year veteran officer, supports the expansion of the chaplaincy program, having witnessed the valuable contributions Consuegra has made to the emotional and spiritual well-being of her officers.
Smith is particularly pleased with his constituency as well as the officers in their patrol cars, giving them the opportunity to talk about their worries and concerns.
“I think that’s a great idea, it gives the officers a kind of safe place to open up… you need a safe place you can unload, and I like the idea of him going up. in cruisers because you have the privacy and the chaplains get first-hand experience of what police officers go through… that’s one more piece in the wellness puzzle, ”said Smith.
When officers complete a workday, which can include traumatic events such as serious traffic accidents, violent crime, or split-second decisions involving life or death, officers benefit by talking about their experiences. experiences and impact on their personal well-being.
Consuegra said he doesn’t have a magic wand to wave and it’s not necessarily the words he says that matter most.
“We mainly listen to what they tell us, but then we can share with them things they can do to help them get through what they are going through,” Consuegra said.
Police chaplains are also trained in critical stress management.
“We want to have chaplains engaged in this ministry,” Consuegra said.
Consuegra has made it clear that police chaplaincy is not about trying to instill religion in anyone.
“As chaplains, we are not here to proselytize, to convert anyone, but rather to help them come into contact with their spirituality, whatever it is,” Consuegra said.
While the department would like to have at least two chaplains for each of its eight district police stations, Consuegra said 25 or more may be needed as the program grows in the coming years.