Police officers are the first on scene when tragedy strikes, but it may be the members of the department without guns that are the most important in the healing process after.
They are on call 24 hours a day, work for free, and have to deal with crime, grief and sadness.
But the Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Chaplains say they wouldn’t change one thing.
“We are trained to work with the law enforcement and to be extensions of the police department,” explains Pastor Charles Roberson, an SCMPD Chaplain. “When you see people in a uniform, they have a job to do. They have a scene to process. They have evidence to collect and there are things they need to do. And they aren’t really able to focus on a family and a family’s need. But a Chaplain is able to focus on that family, what that family needs, what that person and that person needs.”
Charles Roberson is the Pastor at Kingdom Life Christian Fellowship on Tibet Ave, and an SCMPD Chaplain for the last six years.
11 Chaplains cover all of Chatham County. Two assigned to each of the five precincts. They get to know the officers, and community better. That’s when tragedy strikes they are better prepared to help.
“There was a family planning for their son’s surprise birthday party and they thought he was playing a trick and didn’t come home that night,” remembers Pastor Roberson about one specific shooting. “It happens he was murdered that night. When I showed up to the house that morning, everything was decorated for the party and being able to sit down with that family, talk to them, work them through it made a big difference for them.”
“I pretty much remember every scene i’ve been on because there’s a family. There’s children, a spouse, a mom, a dad and I remember the people.”
Pastor Roberson says for the 11 preachers, many from different denominations, races and even sexes, this is a calling.
“Whether it’s a suspect or its a victim or whatever, we come for people. We help people.”
Sometimes the people they need to help the most are themselves.
“The toughest part of the job is seeing something that affects you personally. Something that you have a challenge getting out of your head. Remembering you have children, you have parents, you have a spouse and knowing that something could happen to them.”
Remembering also that SCMPD officers are human too, and they have trouble dealing with the job, and what they see as well. SCMPD Chaplains spend time in the precincts, even on ride alongs with officers.
“Most importantly knowing that the men or the woman of this department know that they know there is someone that is willing to listen. That they know there is someone that cares about them. Someone that hads their back and someone that is willing to listen to them unconditionally.”
And for anyone involved or affected by crime, listening makes a big difference.
“We have received so many comments from so many folks that later on when its down the road and over they have reached back out to us to say you made a big difference,” says Roberson.
“Knowing that you are able to do something in your life that’s going to help somebody else at a critical time for them. To me that’s the joy out of it, that’s the payment out of all of this. Living for something more than just yourself.”