CPD introduces chaplains to help officers

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COLUMBIA - There are four new members to the Columbia Police Department, but they don't carry a gun.

The department introduced four chaplains that will work with officers and offer them spiritual and emotional guidance and support through stressful times and hardships.

According to the police department, the program came from the desire to "improve employee wellness and ease the impact of tragic circumstances for personnel and members of the public."

CPD sent more than 150 letters to surrounding churches to gauge interest and find candidates for the volunteer positions.

After officials reviewed the applications, a panel of officers, department employees, and a chaplain from the Missouri State Highway Patrol interviewed them.

The four selected are:

*Father Francis Doyle of Sacred Heart Catholic Church

*Pastor Jeremy Risner of C2 Church Christian Chapel

*Pastor Rob Gaskin of Karis Church

*Pastor Luke Stockeland of Open Door Baptist Church

Once chosen, the four attended training at the International Conference of Police Chaplains (ICPC) held in Branson, Missouri. Pastor Stockeland said this three-day course focused on illustrations and situations chaplains may face working with law enforcement. 

"In short, the police officer's job is to protect and serve our community," Stockeland said. "The chaplain's job is to serve our officers and also our community." 

Stockeland said his biggest takeaway from the conference was learning how to apply chaplaincy to law enforcement. He said the conference included around 170 chaplains from the south-central states, some of which included Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. 

"I was interested from the beginning," Gaskin said. "The more I learned, the more excited I got to do this job. And as I learned more, the more I saw a need for this kind of service."

Gaskin helped found the Karis Church ten years ago. He says the process of getting to know the officers and their families will be a slow one. However, Gaskin said the new chaplains have a budding friendship that can only help in their efforts.

"We're all trying to accomplish the same thing, to help law enforcement, and I've already seen that."

The appointed chaplains will rotate with weekly ride-alongs with CPD officers.