Faculty Articles

Law Enforcement Chaplains: Defining Their Roles

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FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin


Use of chaplains to improve functioning of organizations began centuries ago with the military and continues today with hospitals, hospices, fire departments, and law enforcement agencies.1 Despite their increasing prevalence, the exact roles that chaplains fulfill vary from one organization to another. Some individuals consider the lack of a single role as a weakness in the agency’s use of chaplains.

However, one of the greatest strengths of a chaplaincy program is the ability to offer a variety of services to achieve the greatest satisfaction.2 Sixty years ago chaplaincy was in its infancy due to role conflicts, such as military officer versus clergy and religious beliefs versus participation in war.3 Over time chaplains developed and improved their abilities to assist organizations by identifying unmet needs. To maximize chaplains’ effectiveness, law enforcement agencies should specifically define their roles.

Police departments benefit immensely from chaplains’ services.4 Chaplains improve the overall functioning of law enforcement through involvement in correctional facilities, community-police relations, line-of-duty death notification and burial service facilitation, crisis intervention, and officer and department well-being.

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