Prince George’s County police

‘Vent Their Feelings': Volunteer Chaplains Support Prince George's Officers' Spiritual Health

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As part of its police reform efforts, Prince George's County is focusing on the mental health needs of officers. Now the police department is taking that one step further with a greater emphasis on their spiritual health.

For Prince George's County Police Chaplain Claudio Consuegra a police cruiser is more than a mobile office. It can also be a sanctuary.

"As you spend time riding around with them in the privacy of their car, they have the opportunity to vent their feelings, what's deep inside them," Consuegra said.

"Sometimes it's nice to have somebody that you can talk to," Assistant Commander Susan Smith said.

Smith said having a chaplain close by helped her through the past year.

"For me, I like just to unload my stress onto somebody else. This past year, I've had some personal changes in my life and just having somebody I can talk to as a friend,"

Consuegra and other volunteer chaplains are nondenominational, and they randomly ride with officers to listen to them and offer emotional support.

"They're kind of part of us now. So, that makes the officers feel a little safer to let their guard down because I'm now talking to a colleague. I'm not talking to some outsider who is going to judge me," Smith said.

"I tell you 35 years as a law enforcement chaplain I have heard all kinds of conversations, many of them I don't even remember what they were about, but some have been very significant," Consuegra said.

Consuegra said good mental health requires good spiritual health.

"When people go through trauma, their spirituality is also shaken. So the chaplain helps them to get back to a normal experience of their spirituality," he said.

The police department has five chaplains, but aims to triple those numbers and make their chaplain base more diverse to reflect their diverse department.

The department requires volunteers have a degree in religion or theology and it will provide additional training. It also requires chaplains to spend at least eight volunteer hours per month with officers.

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