Chaplains trained to support first responders

The Crisis Intervention Team Sub-Committee of the Monroe County Criminal Justice Behavioral Health Task Force recently coordinated to provide chaplain training for three local men. 

In 2022, the CIT Sub-Committee approached Jonathan Peters of First Baptist Church in Columbia, Josh Boyer of Hope Christian Church in Columbia and Jerry Flowers of Life Church X south of Columbia for this training.

With support from Human Support Services, the three chaplain trainees traveled to Charleston, S.C., earlier this year to attend the Billy Graham Evangelical Law Enforcement Chaplain Training.

During the four-day intensive training, former officers and chaplains from law enforcement departments from across the country shared their stories.

Throughout the training, instructors focused on the importance of how chaplains need to build trust within the police, fire and EMS departments where they live, so officers and first responders feel comfortable sharing what they’re feeling without fear of reprisal.

Instructors also taught trainees the minutia of trauma-informed care, from word choice and tone of voice to posture.

Peters has served as a chaplain with the Columbia Police Department for more than 20 years.

The level of a chaplain’s involvement in a department depends on each individual department and on organizations like HSS.

Flowers, who is a former law enforcement officer, added that officers “may be more willing to tell their chaplain than they’d be willing to tell a lieutenant or fellow officer.”

One of the lessons they stressed most in the training was how critical confidentiality is in law enforcement.

Armed with the chaplain training, Boyer, Flowers and Peters are ready and willing to support local law enforcement.

“The next phase is to see how our local law enforcement can incorporate this new resource into their departments,” HSS Executive Director Anne Riley said. 

As for the community at large, chaplains can also be available in times of crisis. Should the need arise, they are available to respond to a scene to comfort civilians at the behest and direction of first responders.

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