Virginia Beach Police Department hunts for more volunteer chaplains

Posted at 11:10 AM, Mar 12, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-12 18:06:57-04

Virginia Beach, Va. -The Virginia Beach Police Department is looking for chaplains.

Chaplains who volunteer with police departments go to murder scenes, tell people their loved ones are dead, and provide a listening ear to police officers in distress. But those are just a few of the long list of tasks they complete.

NewsChannel 3 found out the Virginia Beach Police Department needs more chaplains.

Former Marine Brent Henry said Chaplain Joe Jacobs with the Virginia Beach Police Department was an instrumental part as to why he was still alive.

Henry told authorities he suffered from PTSD and had suicidal thoughts.

Jacobs was called to help.

Henry said, "He was there and it makes you feel like you are not alone."

Right now, the Virginia Beach Police Department is looking for more chaplains. Currently, they have about 15 or 16 active members. They are looking to have a total of about 25 members, but say ideally they would like to have 45 or 50 in total to service the entire City of Virginia Beach.

Chaplain Joe Jacobs said, "What I get out of it is a chance to help people. Some people ask me, 'How can you do this at the time of death with these families? It must be terrible to do that,' and I don't think so. I think it's a privilege. It's a privilege to be able to minister to the family when they're at their worst."

Part of the volunteer role involves helping with death notifications, assisting in crisis intervention and suicide calls, but there are a lot of different ways they help.

Jacobs said he would, "Be there for whatever they need. I've made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for kids just because that's what was needed at the time while the family was calling the funeral home."

Police said chaplains often defuse situations.

Officer ​Jimmy Carson with the Virginia Beach Police Department said, "The chaplain is recognized universally when people see them in their uniform they know right away who they are and what they represent."

They are also used to help officers deal with problems.

According to the department, they are trained professionals who are there to offer care and solace to police officers, department staff, and their families as well as the community they serve.

The department leaders ask that a chaplain spend about 20 hours volunteering with the department.

They could spend time doing all kinds of duties like callouts, patrol, meetings, or training.

They do not impose their beliefs on the people they are helping.

Jacobs said, "It doesn't matter how big or small the act is; it's a matter of presence and being there, and many times people just need someone to be there."

Officer Cason said in 2008, the department was devastated when they lost one of their own.

Detective Michael Phillips was killed during an undercover drug-buy operation.

He said every chaplain who volunteered with the department at the time was a vital part in the healing process for the department.

"There could be a tragic event that officers have to deal with and the officers may also need the support," says Officer ​Carson.

It is a volunteer position. You have to apply and pass a screening. You will be asked about your affiliation with a religious organization and if selected, you'll attend a special training. You must be at least 21 years old with a valid VA or NC drivers license.

Chaplains come from all different faiths, according to the department.

"They come from various dominations and backgrounds; however, that is not necessary a requirement. We prefer them be a caliber of people who are interested in serving the citizens of Virginia Beach," says Officer ​Carson.

Chaplains serve the community and could potentially help save a person's life.

"There is just that thing knowing it's a chaplain. Yes, he is with the police department, but he's a chaplain and he is not looking at you the same way law enforcement officers are," says Henry.

The department is looking for people who want to help, guide and in most cases just listen sometimes when a person is at their lowest.

"I get way more back then I give," says Jacobs.