Insights into Police Chaplaincy

05 February 2024

by Michael Cronogue

A question I often get asked is why am I a Chaplain? What is the motivation? It is after all a volunteer role, so there is no salary or chance of career progression. Like most chaplains it is a calling: to serve others as our faith has commanded us to do in whatever way that manifests itself. It is being the friendly face and listening ear - as well as being a regular supplier of cakes and other goodies.  

In The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke, Chapter 10) when asked who is my neighbour? Jesus replies with this story of how personal considerations are put to one side in order to help the victim of a crime of violence. It is one which is particularly appropriate for a Police Officer, or anyone whose job it is to come to the aid of those in distress, to put personal feelings to one side, while focusing on the immediate task in hand.

One of the privileges of being a Police Force Chaplain is I get to see this tremendous variety of activity undertaken by the West Midlands Police Service. Although nominally attached to a Black Country NPU, I have been incredibly fortunate to have been able to accompany officers on patrols – “ride-a long’s” – with other units including Response, Dog unit, Motorway Patrol, the night-time economy as well as with local neighbourhood teams. I can also vouch for the fact that there is nothing like being on a blues and twos call to get the old adrenaline going!

I have also spent time engaging with staff and officers serving in other areas such as Force Contact, Community Protection, Offender Management and on the front desk. After each visit I feel I have been able to add to my depth and breadth of knowledge about modern policing which not only helps me understand the challenges they face, but also how I approach my role as a Chaplain if I am to better serve them. I also find that keeping a handwritten log called unsurprisingly, Chaplain’s Log, helps when I review my experiences and reflections on things I have seen and heard.

This is particularly so when on certain occasions I have been asked by the officers I am accompanying to assist them, such as engaging with members of the public or more famously, the time I ended up helping to keep the traffic moving freely!!

During this past month, I have seen the softer side of policing which the public at large do not always get to know about and is unlikely to appear on most police reality TV programmes. For instance, the couple where one of them is living with advanced Alzheimer’s and who talks about the family dog in such a way despite not remembering the dog died five years previously. Or the burglary victim, who came home finding their property had been violated and who needed reassurance while another officer conducted house to house enquiries among the neighbours hoping to find some CCTV footage. Then finally, sitting with two PCSOs at a community meeting as part of Neighbourhood Policing Week, engaging with the local population and handing out crime prevention advice and freebies such as audible alarms.

At a Chaplain’s away-day earlier this month we met our lead Chaplain, Khadija, where we discussed several ways in how we take our multi-faith chaplaincy forward into the future. The new Chief Constable has publicly declared his wish to return to a more neighbourhood-focused style of policing, and there is a general air of positive expectation among many of the officers and staff I speak to as to what this means in how they carry out their duties protecting and serving our communities. As many of our multi-faith chaplains also carry out a dedicated religious ministry, I feel it is also an opportunity for us to help engage more effectively and act as mediators between our respective communities and local policing units.

Certainly, there are interesting and exciting times ahead, but we must not lose sight of the fact that as so many of society’s challenges are cross-community in nature; it will take greater cross-community effort to solve them.