CRESTVIEW — In addition to caring for their own flocks, two local ministers tend to a flock on the side.
Its members wear blue.
The Rev. Mark Broadhead, pastor of the Laurel Hill and Crestview Presbyterian churches, established the Crestview Police Department’s volunteer chaplains program in 2008.
Broadhead built the Crestview program as an informal chaplaincy headed by a former officer, Sgt. Dave Bracewell, a local pastor and the then-Crestview SWAT team sniper.
Joining Broadhead as the second police chaplain is the Rev. Paul Mixon, pastor of Out of This World Ministries in Crestview. Both have credentials through the International Conference of Police Chaplains.
"Training is needed by non-law enforcement chaplains to understand how to respond to the officers, to be an asset to them, and not be a liability," Broadhead said.
Prospective chaplains must complete 12 basic courses with a minimum of 35 classroom hours to reach the first level of credentialing, Broadhead said.
He has an additional 36 hours of training in critical incident stress management, which prepares chaplains and emergency responders for major traumas such as line-of-duty death, a mass shooting or a community-wide catastrophe.
Chaplains' duties include accompanying officers on patrol and helping them defuse domestic situations.
They also help officers make death notifications and serve as intermediaries among the police, residents and support agencies such as the Trauma Intervention Program.
"And I listen to venting," Broadhead said. "But there's not so much anymore, though."
However, following last year’s dismissal of former Chief Brian Mitchell and one of his majors, Broadhead said there was "lots of venting."
Keeping cops strong
"It's a neutral area within the department," police spokesperson Lt. Andrew Schneider said. "If you have problems, you don't want to talk to your boss about or family issues — anything that might interfere with your work — that's why we have this program.
"We have to stay strong while we're on call, but we're human, too. We have emotions too, and (often), these things build up. We have to have somebody we can talk to."
Crestview's police chaplains provide marriage counseling, personal counseling and suicide prevention intervention for officers.
Joys and rewards
During a spring seminar called "Help! I Love a Cop!" officers and spouses discussed the transition between finishing a shift and returning home.
The transition can be stressful for both officers and their families, Broadhead said.
"On a call, the officer has to cut through the drama and get to the facts," Broadhead said. "At home, they can't cut through the drama. That can be frustrating."
However, he said, there are also joyful occasions that come when a pastor accepts the police chaplain's badge.
"I've performed two weddings for officers, and I have two more coming up," he said. "And (this month), we're having a picnic for the officers and their families."
Broadhead also conducted training in April at the International Conference of Police Chaplains Region 8 conference hosted by the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office.
"It's a very rewarding privilege to be able to give something back to these fine officers," Broadhead said.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.