What it means to be a police chaplain

0
821
Messenger photo by John Crutchfield Lt. Teena Gallagher (center) of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office receives the Walton Tully Award of Excellence from the International Conference of Police Chaplains (ICPC). Offering congratulations are Madison County Sheriff Jim Sabin (left) and Deputy Glenn George, leader of ICPC’s Great Lakes region. The award recognizes law enforcement chaplains who meet training requirements and exhibit exceptional levels of commitment to the chaplaincy.
Messenger photo by John Crutchfield
Lt. Teena Gallagher (center) of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office receives the Walton Tully Award of Excellence from the International Conference of Police Chaplains (ICPC). Offering congratulations are Madison County Sheriff Jim Sabin (left) and Deputy Glenn George, leader of ICPC’s Great Lakes region. The award recognizes law enforcement chaplains who meet training requirements and exhibit exceptional levels of commitment to the chaplaincy.

(Posted May 8, 2014)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

What do law enforcement chaplains do? Very simply put, they provide a shoulder to lean on in times of crisis and tragedy.

Lt. Teena Gallagher has done exactly that for the past 10 years as chaplain of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office. In recognition of her service, the International Conference of Police Chaplains (ICPC) presented Gallagher with the 2014 Walton Tully Award of Excellence for the Great Lakes region.

“I’m flattered but there are so many people in this organization who do phenomenal things,” Gallagher said.

Through continuing education and years of experience, Gallagher has worked her way up to “master” rank with the ICPC. As such, she can be called on to assist with critical incidences anywhere in the United States. In the past, master chaplains have lent their services following such tragedies as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the shootings at Fort Hood and the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Locally, Gallagher helps law enforcement officers, victims of crime, and people affected by tragedy. For employees of the Sheriff’s Office, she provides counseling and debriefing following critical incidences. She offers support when an officer experiences a death in the family. Should an officer die in the line of duty, she would be available to console the officer’s family.

“Law enforcement officers aren’t really great at opening up. They think they need to be tough guys,” Gallagher said. “As chaplains, we let them know we’re there for them.”

Out in the community, Gallagher offers counseling and support in many ways. She stands by victims of crime during Sheriff’s Office investigations. She goes into schools to debrief teachers and students, as she did last fall after Madison-Plains teacher and coach Jeff Spradlin died unexpectedly due to a heart attack. When someone dies as the result of a tragedy, such as an auto accident or murder, area law enforcement agencies call on Gallagher to visit the family to deliver the news.

In certain situations, Gallagher relies not only on her own experience but also on her partner, Deputy Divie, to provide comfort. Divie is a search-and-rescue therapy dog. She accompanies Gallagher on tough calls, among them incidences involving suicides.

“We’re there to help the family members. Divie does what dogs do; she lets people pet her. I tell kids that are having a hard time to whisper into her ear because she can keep secrets,” Gallagher said.

Not all of Gallagher’s service takes place during times of crisis. She also speaks at schools and to community groups about her work as a chaplain, about the Sheriff’s Office, and even about Divie. On May 7, she and Divie will be the guests of honor at an assembly at St. Patrick Elementary School in London.

Gallagher has been with county services for over 35 years. For the past eight years, she also has served as pastoral associate at Sts. Simon and Jude Catholic Church in West Jefferson. She is a resident of Galloway.

Father Mark Ghiloni of St. Patrick Church in London serves as deputy chaplain for the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.