This is my 13th year as the Winterville Police Department's (WPD) Chaplain. My name is Ray Fairman. I am a
retired 45 year sworn peace officer who continues to support my chosen
profession at home and away by continuing to serve, as I have for the last 13
years, as a police chaplain for the Winterville (GA) Police Department (WPD) as well
as the Winterville American Legion Post #20 (ALP#20), the Athens GA Area
Military Officers Association (AAMOAA) and several other Athens, Georgia area veteran's
and law enforcement organizations. I have also served for many years as source of support
to NASRO Chaplain Archie Hodge since we both became charter members of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) back in 1990 when we were both SRO's and members of the Florida Association of School Resource Officers (FASRO) which gave "birth" to NASRO.
Well I just returned
from representing the WPD on a 28 day 5700 mile journey across the USA and back
visiting military bases and law enforcement agencies while promoting law
enforcement Chaplaincy programs as well as Critical/Traumatic Incident Debriefings
and Peer Counseling and support services as well as Critical Incident Stress
reduction efforts in support our country's law enforcement and military first
A part of the purpose for making this journey was also to serve
NASRO as a duty chaplain and to conduct the Sunday Morning Communion Services, offer spiritual
and other support services as well as advice and counsel to the over 900 law enforcement
families represented at the 2016 National Association of School Resource Officers
(NASRO) Training Conference in Anaheim, California (the hometown back in 1970 of my first Civilian Police Department) starting on July 10th 2016."
This was my 26th year as a member of NASRO after becoming a charter
member in 1990, the year it was founded; and since I am begining to get buisier locally with chaplaincy duties and this was likely going to be my last consecutive conference, was honored to be recognized this year with an
Executive Citation Award for my 16 years of Spiritual Guidance and Support to
the organization as one of its chaplains. While I plan to continue to remain a
member of NASRO, my presence at our annual conferences will be reduced due to my increasing work load as chaplain for The Georgia Association of Law Enforcement
Chaplains and his other Athens GA area chaplaincy responsibilities.
My visiting of military bases and support for military
chaplains becomes more understandable when you realize I am a retired USMC
Chief Warrant Officer 4 serving continuously as both an active duty US Marine
and as a Marine Reservist from 1963 to 2006.
As a serving Police Chaplain I hav always conducted my travel and trips
voluntarily and at no expense to NASRO in conjunction with my duties as a
volunteer assistant chaplain with the National Association of School Resource
Officers, a relationship he began as an SRO myself some 31 years ago while an SRO with
the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office in Florida.
I had already begun my trip west and was in western
Oklahoma when the Dallas Police Department (DPD) ambush took place and later
was in Northern California when the tragic Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD)
event occurred. If I had not been already committed to my assignment, you can
rest assured I would have been on my way to first one and then the other
location to offer my support and services "gratis" to any of the agencies/officers
The media drenched tragedies that unfolded during my trip,
made for some very timely, yet very difficult, but never the less interesting
meetings with law enforcement officers and administrators along the way. Having
served on police, sheriffs and federal agencies during his career and at
various line, supervisory, command and administrative level positions, I was
able to listen to the concerns of all echelons, including fears, issues and
potential solutions from numerous sources regarding the tensions and troubles
being experienced by officers and agencies alike and act as a sounding board
for anyone looking for a myriad of answers to some very difficult questions.
While discussing these things with personnel from more than
250 agencies during my 28 days on the road during July, as well as a host of
citizens, I found many of them on both sides of that "Thin Blue Line", still
quite willing to support their communities across all vocational, racial,
ethnic and social barriers. While I found many agencies had addressed some of the
concerns of the officers and communities with paid or volunteer chaplaincy
units (some had a mix of civilian chaplains and sworn officer chaplains and
some were civilian volunteers only) and some had ICISF CIRT teams available
I was also made aware that others did not. Some administrations felt that any sort of chaplains or
debriefing teams were totally unnecessary. Others had already placed trained
officers as peer support counselors in various divisions. So as you can well see
there is no set or standard answer, however, one common concern from both rank and
file alike was the dearth of qualified law enforcement chaplains with a real
understanding of life behind the badge. Crossing that "blue line" is not the
easiest journey to make, especially for many church professionals who are
solely theologically trained.
Considering myself to be a Non-Denominational Christian,
who built a 4 decade career as a cop before turning to my current support role,
led me to what I feel is a better understanding of what the job I now pursues
as a volunteer, can really accomplish. I have for years been operating in
the local, state and national arenas as an inter-faith chaplain and have been responding
to disasters like Hurricane Katrina, Campus Mass Shooting Incidents like VA
Tech and Northern Illinois University as a Winterville Police Department
representative (LEO/Chaplain) for many years.
However, "one thing I learned when I went to
spend 5 weeks as a sworn officer/chaplain in New Orleans during the Katrina
aftermath and a couple of week-long assignments at VA Tech and Northern Illinois
University after the campus shooting incidents, is that while we in law
enforcement would like to remain immune to and above being impacted by tragic
events..., being able to talk about our true feelings and share them with others
who understand our feelings and coping mechanisms..., and who may have even gone
through some of the things we have seen, done and for some time even been
keeping subdued themselves..., can draw us closer and help us cope and make us
stronger in ways that do not manifest themselves as destructive to our job,
communities, families, agencies and ourselves."
I have received extensive training from The International
Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) in counseling and Critical Incident
Debriefing; and I and my wife of 47 years have also served on staff for a number of years with a team of Law Enforcement Officers and Police Chaplains who held Law
Enforcement Family, Marriage and Crisis Incident Issue Retreats.
One positive side effect of My recent visits and
discussions and the DPD and BRPD tragedies that I experienced as my trip
progressed, was that many officers wanted to do something for the DPD and BRPD
chaplains who were being thrust into the center of these media fueled and
public events in such dire times. Many LEO's of all ranks felt that the public and their
departments would remember the officers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for
their communities and their families, but would unintentionally overlook the
impact of the heightened responsibilities and demands placed on the chaplains working for and with the officers
and the families. Even the agencies themselves might miss the additional
stresses placed on them and their families.
Many of them "Rank and File officers" alike (including quite
a few SRO's at our Anaheim conference) asked me to accept and collect their small donations
and pass them along in bulk to the impacted department's chaplains units to be used to replenish
their supplies or purchase needed equipment since many units or chaplains are
volunteers. I agreed to act as a repository for their funds and not only to
divide the donations equally, but said I would match 50% of what I had collected as a
total when I returned home. I amassed nearly $1000.00 in small donations
from police officers by the time I returned home. I have since my return sent
a donation in the form of a check for $750.00 to the Baton Rouge Police Department's
Chaplaincy Liaison Officer Lt Duran Boyce and over $1500.00 worth of requested
supplies to Chaplain Mike Middlebrooks of the Dallas Police Department (the DPD Chaplains could not accept monetary donations but could accept materials they could put to good use) I expect additional donations to trickle in and will send them out as they arrive.
Now that I have returned to Winterville GA, my plate is still full as I will be leaving for a week this month to teach in the Georgia Association Oof Law Enforcement Chaplains (GALEC) Basic Class while attending our Advanced Class for Law Enforcement Chaplains in South Georgia (below the "gnat line" for those of you who know Georgia) and resuming
my duties as the AAMOAA Chaplain & ALP#20 Chaplain since both veterans organizations will also be starting up again this month.
If you need anything that I can help with just let me know. Use the contact tab on the menu to send me an email.
So until later, God Bless those of us still working in the fields, Stay Safe and 10-23 till next time.