Essex: Chaplains look after our officers, staff and fellow volunteers
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Around 1,800 people volunteer their valuable spare time to help us protect our communities and keep you safe from harm.
Among them are police support volunteers who provide specialist support to various areas of the force. include supporting our digital and forensics teams in the world of cybercrime, our specialist fraud and scams investigators and our Management of Sexual Offenders and Violent Offenders (MOSOVO) team, working with our Witness Care team and helping out in the Essex Police Museum.
To celebrate National Volunteers’ Week and the vital work our volunteers do all year round, we are highlighting a few of our more unusual volunteering opportunities.
One of those is that of police chaplain. Our chaplains provide support and encouragement to police officers, police staff, our volunteers and, where practicable, their families.
Ian Grüneberg has been our chaplaincy co-ordinator for the past ten years. He provides a link between the force and individual chaplains based at our police stations. If there are vacancies, he seeks suitable replacement volunteers, arranges training and helps them to settle into the role. He also represents our chaplains with Police Chaplaincy UK – there are 500 or so police chaplains countrywide.
On top of all that, Ian regularly pops into offices at our Chelmsford headquarters and also visits officers and staff policing the city, providing encouragement, support and a listening ear.
“Although all police chaplains must have a faith, we do not try to convert someone from their own beliefs. We are here for all within the police service whatever their faith or if they have no faith.”
Ian had a long and distinguished career as a police officer, retiring as a chief superintendent, but most of our chaplains have no initial connection with the police.
“After retiring from the force, I initially worked with a local charity. However, after a couple of years I was invited to co-ordinate the police chaplains. I agreed because I know from experience that policing can be a very stressful and emotionally-challenging occupation. “Essex Police provides good support to those physically injured in their role. The chaplaincy is here to help those whose injuries are non-physical. “It is a great privilege and pleasure being a police chaplain. And, I must say, having the opportunity to engage with officers and staff, sharing the highs and lows of their jobs and acting as a critical friend is very fulfilling.”
Ian says that police chaplains never know what they may find when they visit a police station.
“Though it’s not expected, some chaplains go out on patrol to experience the life of an operational officer. Some have been invited to become actors in training scenarios, playing the role of either a victim or even an offender – I’ve seen a chaplain being chased by a police dog in such a scenario! “Obviously, being a chaplain has its serious side. Officers and staff are frequently under pressure and confronted with situations that most people would find repulsive. "After such events they often have deep, searching questions about the life, its meaning and their role within society, which chaplains can help them with.”
Anyone with a strong, practical, faith who is a member of a recognised church or faith community, could be considered for any station where there is a need for a chaplain, says Ian.
“On average, chaplains spend two hours per week visiting their station, however, most see there is a need to be available for even more time. “But policing is a 24/7 role which means chaplains can visit at any time and find officers and staff to meet and speak with. They are normally very grateful and appreciate having people from outside the organisation giving them encouragement and support. And once you’ve built up a trust with the officers and staff you visit, you’ll be welcomed and find the ‘can do’ attitude of the teams across the force exhilarating.”