By Matt Kyle | Staff Writer
Many police departments across the U.S. have police chaplains, which can be volunteer or paid positions. Chaplains provide emotional, moral and spiritual support to officers whenever it is needed.
Waco Police Department is one of the many departments that has chaplains, and they were featured last month on an episode of Waco PD’s podcast. John Wells, a minister and volunteer chaplain for Waco PD, said the job is a “ministry of presence.”
“I’m there for the officers if they need me,” Wells said. “If they need to talk, they want to get married, if they’ve got a problem in their family or they are faced with situations that can create PTSD and they need to decompress. So we’re there to help them do all those kinds of things.”
Wells said his road to becoming a chaplain began when he first began to become involved with his church as a teenager and wanted to become a priest. He received an appointment from West Point Academy and spent 25 years in the Army before moving to Florida and becoming involved in ministry again. He said he moved to Waco in 2003 and was recruited to be a chaplain by the police chief after only having been in Waco for a week.
Damus Vice, a Waco PD officer and chaplain, said he is also a member of Waco PD’s peer support program. As a part of the peer support team, Vice said he saw the value of having people around to support those in need.
Vice said he decided to become a chaplain because he already had great relationships with the other officers, and by being both an officer and a chaplain, he could be present for officers more often than the volunteer chaplains.
“Being a chaplain, I get to help people in different ways,” Vice said. “For me, that’s huge, because it’s about the spiritual and mental well-being of our officers. If we can keep them mentally strong and physically stronger, then they can serve the community a lot better and a lot longer.”
Vice said the current chaplain team does amazing work within the department, but it would be great to get more volunteers to help not only within the department but also within the community. Vice said applications can be found on Waco PD’s website.
Wells said to be a chaplain, you have to be willing to love everyone.
“They’ve got to have a heart for people,” Wells said. “That’s all kinds of people, some that are hard to love. You’ve got to be willing to acknowledge that sometimes they just, they just don’t want anything to do with you. I think in everybody’s life, time comes where there’s going to be some events where they’re going to acknowledge that they can’t do anything all by themselves, that there’s got to be something out there that’s more than themselves. And in that case, they’re going to reach out. And you’ve got to be there when they do.”
Vice said faith has been incredibly important during his time with the peer support team and as a chaplain.
“Faith is everything,” Vice said. “Faith is what drives me. It’s the reason I do this job. It’s the reason that I get up and come to work every morning and the opportunity to help and serve other people.”