Area pastors partner with deputies to form chaplain program
A first-of-its-kind program in Dodge County will pair up sheriff’s deputies and area clergy members.
The Dodge County Sheriff’s Office began a new program last week, with nine pastors joining the ranks of the office as chaplains. The clergy members have completed the required state and federal background checks and required training to earn their credentials to serve as volunteers in the program.
Serving as sheriff’s chaplains are Tim Chase of Grace Lutheran Church, Dodge Center; James Zotalis of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, Kasson; Jim Martin of Seventh Day Adventist Church, Dodge Center; Roger Landworthy of Praise Fellowship, Dodge Center; John Todor of First Baptist Church, Kasson; Peter Moen of Concord Church of Christ, West Concord; Rex and Shari Edge, Blooms of Love, Dodge Center; and Bernie Lattner of the Federal Medical Center.
Sgt. Shannon Boerner will supervise the program. He helped in the planning and implementation phases of the program.
“We are excited to have these great people volunteering for this program to help us better serve our community,” Sheriff Scott Rose said.
With every call, every day, law enforcement officers, Rose said, are faced with potentially life-threatening situations in which split-second decisions have to be made.
“No one career is confronted with more situations that can demoralize and create extreme emotional and mental burdens than law enforcement,” he said. “These incidents are often difficult to deal with for both the public safety professional and the citizens involved.”
After reviewing a handful of devastating incidents over the past couple years, the sheriff began researching the idea of starting a chaplain program. He noted that the sheriff’s office lacked this type of internal support system for its staff, other public safety agencies, and the victims.
“Our local law enforcement officers, dispatchers and first responders are out there day and night, 24/7 to help and protect our community,” Rose said. “We need to make sure they are taken care of too.”
Rose said today more than ever before law enforcement agencies need a resource for guidance, counseling and assistance to their officers, their families and their communities.
“The burden these officers take on can tremendously affect the officer’s family, too - often the forgotten victims,” Rose said.
The officer’s own clergy person or religious advisor, although trained in the ministry, likely doesn’t have a good understanding of the particular problems law enforcement officers face, Rose said.
“In such cases, this is where a chaplain could listen with empathy, advise calmly and offer assistance when such assistance is appropriate,” he said.
The chaplains are not there to proselytize, but rather to be an understanding ear and provide support and guidance with an open heart and mind, Rose said.
Some of the ways the chaplains will be assisting local officers include the ride-along program, responding to all major disasters, assisting with making death notifications, assisting with suicides, providing assistance to victims, and counseling members of the law enforcement community.
Chaplains will also be called upon to visit sick or injured officers and other department personnel at home or in the hospital.
Rose said he could still use more support in the Hayfield, Claremont and West Concord areas to help respond to calls. The requirement is to be a minister with at least five years of experience, and the willingness to be available to respond to any situation where a chaplain’s presence may be needed.
The St. Paul Chaplain program, which provided input during the planning phase last year, has offered to assist with future training for Dodge County’s chaplains.
The program will hold monthly training sessions at the sheriff’s office in Mantorville.
For more information, contact the sheriff at 507-635-6200 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.