Spirituality in the Service

Canon David Wilbraham, National Police Chaplain reflects on the importance of providing support for our staff. He writes;

I have been reflecting that regardless of the faith or belief of the individual, policing is an inherently ‘spiritual’ occupation, or, as many would feel, vocation. I say this because the day to day work in which you are involved deals with some really important issues. This includes, for example, issues of right and wrong, good and evil, freedom and responsibility, life and death, the desire for peace, the building of community, retribution, restitution and forgiveness. It involves seeing people, individually and in groups at their very best in the most tragic of circumstances and also seeing individuals at their worst and most depraved. At a personal level it involves commitment, integrity, truth, love, patience, compassion, understanding and self sacrifice. Officers and front line staff go out each day with, should the need arise, to put themselves in harms way to protect others.

I think it is for this reason that when the publicity and the perception of how the Police are treated is negative, destructive, dishonest and undermining it goes deep, concerns us profoundly and really hurts. It rightly causes us to want to shout, clearly and loudly, that those stories and views need to be balanced with the many more stories of bravery, commitment, self sacrifice and dedication we not only daily but which more importantly characterise attitudes which bring officers and staff to duty each day.

About Police Chaplaincy UK

Chaplaincy to the Police, first noted in London in the middle of the nineteenth century, grew rapidly during the 1980’s and 1990’s. In 1988 there were around 20 police chaplains within the UK, by the mid 1990’s over 80.

Today around 650 people from a wide range of faiths and beliefs are engaged in Police Chaplaincy.

The value of Chaplaincy to the Police was recognized by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary when in a report on Diversity it was recommended that

“…..all forces should have resources in place to meet the spiritual needs of police officers and police staff, while respecting the diversity of faiths and beliefs both inside the service and in the communities which they serve.’

(Diversity Matters, HMIC, 2003).

The National Association of Chaplains to the Police [NACP] was formed to bring together this group of chaplains. It developed and grew to become the professional body representing Police Chaplains. In 2016 NACP was reconstituted to become Police Chaplaincy UK, a Company limited by guarantee and a Registered Charity. We believe this will the most appropriate vehicle to deliver Police Chaplaincy over the coming decade.

Police Chaplaincy serves all people – ‘regardless of faith or belief’ and guards that principle strongly. No faith group is allowed to proselytise and guidelines have been developed to deliver effective ministry and service to all.

Chaplaincies have developed in nearly every force and whilst each operates within their own context the role of Police Chaplaincy can be summarised as follows;-

  1. Personal, Practical & [where appropriate] Spiritual care
  • Supporting all Police Staff & their families
  1. Operational Support
  • To be a resource where faith & operational issues interact.
  • Provide a network of advice relating to moral, ethical & religious matters
  • To help build and facilitate links with communities and the Police
  1. Response to Major/Critical Incidents
  • To support Personnel & to assist community recovery 

Police Staff spend their working lives dealing with complicated, difficult and often distressing situations. The majority of UK police forces now have chaplains who aim to provide independent pastoral care to members of the police service and their families, to help them handle the increasingly complex and demanding nature of their work.

Police work is always difficult, often daunting and sometimes downright dangerous. Chaplains are not spiritual welfare officers, counsellors or psychologists. We are just available for anyone who needs us in whatever way that might be. Chaplains play unique and spiritual roles in the police service and support staff in the issues of life, death, belief, and meaning, as well as being alongside them in all aspects of their duties and at their times of need.

In order to do this we endeavour to:

  • develop a clear and strong link with operational policing
  • get to know the people we serve and understand the job they do
  • build relationships based on friendship and trust through: visiting stations; attending training sessions; spending time on shift with officers; responding with police staff to Major & Critical Incidents

Another important function of the Chaplain is to network with faith groups & Communities to promote local support and involvement, enhancing local and neighbourhood policing initiatives. This is a dynamic role whereby Chaplains can open doors for local / neighbourhood policing by building relationships with faith groups and their leaders. Faith is deeply entwined with community spirit and it is important that the service has access to these communities.

The role of a Lead chaplain

It is clear that the most effective model for Police Chaplaincy is where there is a Lead Chaplain who has sufficient time and capacity to build, manage and co-ordinate within each force the ministry of a voluntary chaplaincy team drawn from across faith communities. This post should be appropriately resourced if it is to succeed. We are seeking to encourage this development in each force.

NPCC endorsement

In January 2013 a Paper was unanimously agreed at Chief Constables Council [then ACPO] which supported the role of Police Chaplaincy, accepted guidelines on recruitment responsibilities and recognised NACP as the point of reference for Police Chaplaincy matters.

It was recognised that Chaplaincy will always be structured in a way that will serve the unique nature of the individual force, but the opportunities can best be exploited by a professional chaplaincy service fully embedded within the police service, and accepted as an integral part of the structure of each force.

Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney [Hampshire] is the current NPCC ‘lead’ for Police Chaplaincy. Police Chaplaincy continues to grow and contribute in positive ways to policing both internally and externally. It is clear that with few exceptions Forces have embedded chaplaincy within their structure and make good use of chaplains as a resource.

National support from APCC

A key part of future development is to see the role of a National Police Chaplain as a dedicated post, centrally funded, who would be responsible for the ongoing development of Police Chaplaincy across the country. This role would be a key point of contact/conduit for other bodies – Government; PCC’s; Staff Associations; faith groups; faith based voluntary agencies etc to link with the Police.

In Autumn 2016 APCC agreed to fund this post for a term of five years.

Who to talk to

If you would like to speak to a Police Chaplain then make contact via your own force Intranet or through the National Police Chaplain.

Canon David Wilbraham, National Police Chaplain

Force Chaplain, Thames Valley Police
Telephone 01865 846916/2 Mobile 07973 367786
Thames Valley Police HQ, Oxford Road, Kidlington, Oxon, OX5 1NX

E-mail: david.wilbraham@thamesvalley.pnn.police.uk

Website: http://www.police-chaplains.org.uk