Denver-area chaplains provide different kind of police backup

By Corrie Sahling
Posted 11/24/15

As Kevin Shive walks around the Golden Police Department, he holds a conversation with every person he sees — a discussion about what someone’s kid was for Halloween, a joke about a …

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Denver-area chaplains provide different kind of police backup

Posted

As Kevin Shive walks around the Golden Police Department, he holds a conversation with every person he sees — a discussion about what someone’s kid was for Halloween, a joke about a person’s recent role in a play and quick hugs of friendly support.

“This is what being a chaplain is all about,” said Scott Moore, a chaplain with the Wheat Ridge Police Department and a pastor at Holy Cross Lutheran Church.

Shive — a chaplain with the Golden Police Department and pastor at Hillside Community Church — and Moore both hold the title “police chaplain,” meaning that they volunteer time each week to support police officers in their communities.

A police chaplain by definition is a minister, such as a pastor, who serves in a precinct and works primarily with police officers to provide support and counseling.

“We are just serving those that serve us,” Shive said.

But in practice, being a chaplain is about being a friend, according to Moore; it’s about becoming trusted so officers feel like they have someone to talk to.

“In your job, you probably don’t have to worry about someone killing you,” Shive said. “It’s about being a trusted and confidential source to officers, so they have a place where they can process life.”

In a typical week, Shive said he will spend time around the department doing different things, from walking around and taking note of who worked on hard cases that week to going on a several-hour ride-along with an officer.

“You start to get a feel for what’s going on, who might need help,” Shive said.

While chaplains hold a religious background, the conversations and support given to officers is only spiritual if the officer asks.

“Officers have an understanding of who they are coming to, so it happens more than you would think,” Moore said. “Police wrestle with the good and evil of the world, so they question that.”

Shive agreed that conversations often turn spiritual even when it doesn’t seem they will.

“The officers get comfortable with you,” Shive said, “so you get in their car and they’ll say ‘we aren’t talking about God tonight,’ and 30 minutes later, they are asking you about things that everyone thinks about spiritually.”

Whether conversations are spiritual, religious or about the hard stuff police see, both Moore and Shive agree that the biggest part of being a chaplain is just being there for the officers.

“Sometimes they just need normalcy,” Moore said. “They need to talk about anything but the bad thing they witnessed.”

Or sometimes, officers needs someone to officiate their weddings — which Shive did recently.

“It’s nice to know we are making an impact,” Moore said. “That officers are enjoying their job and we can help them.”

The best part of being a chaplain for Shive is seeing that people know they are cared for.

“This is a strange job,” Shive said. “Especially right now with this climate around police. I like to walk through and make sure that they know they are appreciated and seen.”

While a chaplain may not be going through the exact same things as a police officer in a hard time, there are difficult aspects of the job as well.

“It is hard to see what’s really going on in your community,” Shive said. “To see how often people call 911 … you sometimes think that maybe no one will call today.”

Shive said that having other chaplains’ support is important; after a challenging time in Golden, he used the support of a chaplain in Aurora.

“It’s hard not to become desensitized to all of it,” Moore said.

Being a chaplain is not something that either Moore or Shive thought they would do — both even were against the idea at first.

Moore now believes that being a chaplain is his calling in life.

“I always had an interest in criminal justice, but not in the way that the officers do,” Moore said. “This has opened some doors — it led me to believe this is my calling.”

Shive’s biggest reason for not wanting to be a chaplain was that he didn’t know how he would fit more into his job.

“Now, it’s part of my job,” Shive said. “Whether it’s preparing a sermon or hopping in a cop car.”

police chaplains, Golden Police Department, Corrie Sahling

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