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Spiritual Warriors: Police Chaplains Offer Critical Care as Suicide Rates Climb

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Police chaplains are stepping up to support our law enforcement heroes, offering crucial spiritual and emotional care as they face unprecedented challenges and rising suicide rates.

As one of about 1,300 chaplains nationwide, Dr. Saundra Cherry with the Newport News Police Department explains why faith is desperately needed on the frontlines. 

"Because there is warfare, there is a lot of warfare and you have to be spiritually sensitive to the Holy Spirit to see it," said Dr. Cherry. "And to be able to go into warfare when you see it, not necessarily to speak about it, but to be that presence that you see it and that you can begin to pray."

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Dr. Cherry has served as an on-call volunteer chaplain 24/7, 365 days a year since 2009. Rather than evangelize, though, Dr. Cherry says chaplains primarily walk alongside officers during their most difficult days, providing critical spiritual care, emotional support, and crisis intervention. 

"And so, we as chaplains have that opportunity to talk to the recruits, even as they're starting their journey, to tell them, 'You are not a robot, you are a human being, you're going to see stuff.' This is a hard job," said Dr. Cherry.

As officer resignations slowly rebound from record levels over the last four years, a new Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) survey shows departments still losing officers faster than they can hire new ones. 

Among the reasons, increasing resignations and higher retirements, leading to a nearly 5% drop over the past three years. Add to that increased scrutiny. 

"Body cameras have put law enforcement in a tough spot where they think twice about doing things, because of that hesitation factor that, 'I don't want to be charged, sued, or lose my house,'" said retired Norfolk Police officer Chris Amos, now a pastor at Chr1st Fellowship Church. 

Amos knows firsthand the importance of having a chaplain on staff, given the weight of life resting on the shoulders of our police force. 

"People forget they're people, just like anybody else," said Amos. "They have to take care of the public's problems and crises and then they have to go home and take care of theirs as well."

The impact of that weight can be seen in officer suicide rates, which are back on the rise since peaking during Covid. Roughly 184 officers have taken their life each year since 2016, totaling almost 1,300 according to First H.E.L.P & CNA Corp.

Bobby Kipper, a former Newport News Officer, now with the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence, recalls dealing with two child deaths in 10 days. 

"I had to pull a baby out of a lake and the baby didn't make it," said Kipper. "I tried to do CPR on the baby, but it didn't happen. I had another 'child death' that happened within 10 days of that. I began to question my own faith."

Kipper says tragic scenarios like these are exactly why chaplains are crucial for police, to provide spiritual care and emotional support for both officers and the community. Kipper says journaling also helped him recover from trauma on the job. His notes eventually turned into a daily devotional for frontline servicemembers called Roll Call: A Wellness Book for Officers, which emphasizes the importance of addressing their mental and spiritual health in the field."

"I don't know many officers that don't experience some personal and professional trauma based on what they see," said Kipper. "The question is whether they're willing to admit it and deal with it." 

Chaplain Cherry understands transparency has only recently been made more available to officers given a history of stigma surrounding mental health-related traumas. A Police-One case study shows the presence of chaplains is crucial following traumatic events – and that having them on the force helps address mental health challenges, reduce suicide rates, and improve officer retention. 

"I could not go into law enforcement without Christ," Amos said. "And the large majority do that every single day. I could not do it had I not had Jesus with me."

Dr. Cherry says it's a calling led by faith that serves as an anchor, helping these often-unsung heroes stand firm in their service to the men and women in blue. 

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About The Author


Brody Carter has been reporting and anchoring at CBN since 2021. In his time at CBN, he has found his stride in national news, including political and foreign affairs, extreme weather, and in-depth faith-based reporting. Brody frequently covers news for The 700 Club, Faith Nation, Newswatch, and Christian World News. Brody is passionate about news and displays standout dedication and work ethic in the field. Since starting at CBN, Brody has not only grown as a journalist but also as a person of faith thanks to close family, friends, co-workers, and the church body in Virginia Beach. He