The primary mission for first responder Chaplains is to provide practical, emotional and spiritual support for our first responders in their time of need.  Our secondary mission is to support citizens who find themselves in crisis.  First responders often call Chaplains to assist them in caring for people who are experiencing ‘the worst day of their lives’.   Chaplains often become a liaison between first responders and citizens who are suffering.  People in crisis who feel genuinely cared for become more cooperative and may actually switch from being adversarial to being an ally.  By fulfilling the secondary mission first, Chaplains carry out their primary mission – to take a load off our first responders whenever they can, and make their job easier.

A good example of this is Chaplains assisting officers serving death notifications.  Douglas County has developed a team concept when delivering bad news.  The team consists of at least one officer and one trained Chaplain; each role brings something unique to this difficult task.  The Chaplain often starts by delivering the tragic news to the family, allowing the officer to step in to deliver the facts associated with the death.  Chaplains follow up after the officers to help build a support team so those suffering the loss are not left alone at this critical time in their lives.  Officers and Chaplains appreciate the team approach whenever we are called to deliver a death notification.

For Chaplains it is important to support our first responders in the ‘good times’ before ‘the bad times’ happen – and they always do.  During the good times, Chaplains offer wellness training for new recruits as part of their Academy.  They attend patrol and detective briefings, participate in ride alongs with first responders, sit alongs with dispatchers, and distribute treats regularly.  On request, Chaplains provide invocations at graduations, award ceremonies, and memorial services.  They play an integral role in Officer Involved Shootings, emergency management planning, crisis debriefings and more.  We find what many officers want most is a confidential listening ear with someone they trust and we are proud to serve this way.   First responders develop meaningful trusting relationships whenever Chaplains are visible and available in both ‘the good times and the bad’.

The GuardianNET Wellness app (designed by Cordico for the Douglas County Law Enforcement Agencies and the Douglas County Fire and Medical) has helped us serve our agencies even better.  Before we had the apps, our first responders would have 911 Dispatch request us, which could cause a delay (depending on their call volume) and limit the amount of information relayed.  Now that the GuardianNET apps are accessible 24/7, our first responders can self-identify the ‘on-call’ Chaplain and connect with them immediately.  All the information needed to activate a Chaplain is at their fingertips.   Because using the apps is quick and easy, communication is improved, sensitive information is relayed directly, and our Chaplains arrive on scene better prepared to serve.

Since the apps were rolled out, we believe we have seen an increase in Chaplain requests for both emergencies and personal reasons. Unfortunately, because of the confidential nature of our work, we do not gather statistics on our Chaplain activations and interactions.  However, when Chaplain care is delivered quickly and effectively, trust is built and first responders often express their appreciation.  For us this means – ‘Mission Accomplished!’  Thank you Cordico for your partnership!

Paul Taylor / First Responder Assistance Coordinator/Chaplain

About Paul Taylor

Paul is the First Responder Assistance Coordinator (FRAC) with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office serving multiple agencies in Lawrence and Douglas County.  Early in his work career he served as a Paramedic/Supervisor for 20 years, an additional 20 years in Pastoral care and as a first responder Chaplain since the mid 90’s.  Paul is an instructor on a variety of first responder wellness topics and helps to provide Critical Incident Stress Management services.

Currently he coordinates community resources specifically targeting the needs of first responders.  Resources such as peer support teams, first responder ‘friendly’ therapists, Chaplain services, as well as local and regional assistance programs.  Paul is the Kansas representative for the International Conference of Police Chaplains and serves as a volunteer chaplain for the United States Secret Service.

Editor’s note:  Paul has been pivotal in rolling out our GuardianNET Wellness Apps  that support the first responders of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, Douglas County Emergency Communications, Lawrence Police Department, Baldwin City Police Department, University of Kansas Police, Eudora Police Department, and Lawrence-Douglas County Fire and Medical.  His feedback has been invaluable in improving our CordicoShield and CordicoFire Wellness apps.