In 1996, after many successful years in partnership with the Salt Lake Police Department, the Unified Police Department formed its own chaplain corp. After evaluating the association with Salt Lake City Police Department, it was decided to assist not only those citizens involved in traumatic incidents, but to include the support of officers involved in the same situations.
Crises causes stress which triggers physiological reactions. Members experience the same stressors as victims and witnesses of violent crime. Officers are seen as calloused to events but the reality is they typically suppress these anxieties.
The chaplains found officers very receptive to debriefing some of these stressors at the scene. Debriefing occurs in many fashions. Sometimes it's just listening or being a sounding board for a comment. Other times it's a follow-up call that comes several days later. In any fashion it is an opportunity to dump some of that stress and not carry it along on the next call or take it home to the family.
After the creation of the corps, Chaplain Brian Robertson was selected to head the new program and build it under the tenants of serving both the citizens, and the members. Chaplain Steven Kirts is currently the head of the program. The chaplains continue responding to calls in the field units as in the past. However while on the scene they are given purview to engage office members as well as citizens in need of assistance.
In addition to these duties, the chaplains involve themselves with office members by interacting with them throughout the office during the course of their regular office duties.
This greater level of involvement helps to create an environment more conductive to the sharing of information and downloading of critical stressors.
The Unified Police Department program has 10 chaplains who are clergy from various religious denominations. Chaplains are each assigned to a specific division of the Office to become acquainted with it's members. Thus, members throughout the Office will become personally aquatinted with at least one of the chaplains as the chaplains become more accessible to the members.
The results have been immediate and remarkable. The chaplains have become part of the law enforcement family. Numerous comments, in response to the services, laud the success of the program. This innovative and progressive approach is destined to become a model for the future.
Chaplains are brought in from various denominations, however, their services to the Office are ecumenical and non-denominational. This enables any chaplain to initiate assistance to an individual in need.