By MATT BLOIS
When a police officer arrives at the scene of a car crash there’s a lot to do.
They have to ensure the drivers are safe, summon medical help if needed, and control traffic. They have to figure out what caused the crash and they also have to deal with the people involved.
Nolensville Police Chief Roddy Parker said that in the middle of that chaotic scene it’s hard for police to respond compassionately to people involved in an accident or their family members.
“A lot of what we do at times involves very tragic events in the community, and we don’t get a lot training in that,” he said. “That’s not our comfort zone, taking care of the emotional outpouring from a tragic event.”
That’s why he decided to start a volunteer chaplain program in his department. He’s asking local pastors to step in and take care of some of the emotional aspects of police work at serious car accidents or crime scenes.
The chaplains would be there to communicate with victims of crime or people involved in an emergency. If someone dies, they may be called upon to make that difficult phone call. They’re also there as a resource for officers involved in emergencies.
Parker thinks that in general pastors are better equipped to deal with those situations than police officers. It also frees the officers up to focus on figuring out what happened or making sure people are safe.
Wade Owns, a pastor at the Church at Nolensville, is leading the effort. He wants to have a team of chaplains so that someone is always on call. He said he saw the program as a way to serve the people in his town who are going through a traumatic situation.
“The local law enforcement … do an incredible job with the crisis of the moment,” he said. “But we’ve seen the value of the chaplain being there for the family and for the town alongside the expertise that the first responders have.”
In addition to helping people affected by an accident or a crime, Owens said he hopes that he can be a resource for the first responders themselves. Those first responders often see things that are hard to deal with, and he wants to be someone that they can talk to about those things.
He compared the program to a funeral. When a family member dies everyone shows up to the funeral to offer their support to the surviving family members. That immediate support is very helpful, but fewer people stick around afterwards.
He said that support after a tragic event is important too. Owens is hoping his team can provide both that immediate support during an emergency, but also the follow up support after it’s over.
“I have walked through personally a lot of difficult moments in my life and have found great value in a friend or a pastor coming alongside to be there as a friend, to be there as someone who loves on me well in the name of Jesus,” he said. “I want to be that for our town.”