SKOWHEGAN — In the changing world of community police work, where more and more women are entering the field, the need for a broader network of spiritual support also has emerged.

At the Skowhegan Police Department, where six of the 26 full- and part-time police officers are women, the need for a woman’s ear for officers who experience stress dealing with difficult situations is being met with a new chaplain.

Enter Jennifer Reed, the new licensed local pastor at Centenary United Methodist Church on Dr. Mann Road in Skowhegan, where she now serves as community pastor under the Rev. Rick McKinley.

Reed, who earned a masters degree in divinity in 2013 as part of the last graduating class at the Bangor Theological Institute, joins the Rev. Mark Tanner, pastor at the Federated Church on Island Avenue in Skowhegan, as twin chaplains at the Police Department.

Tanner, who has been chaplain for the Skowhegan Fire Department for many years and has worked with police officers, now will be one of two official chaplains at the Police Department, said Skowhegan Police Chief David Bucknam.

“It’s a new era here at Skowhegan,” Bucknam said. “Things are changing and we welcome the change and we welcome the benefits of the change. We have the ability to give the men and women an option as to who they would like to speak with if they are in need.”

Bucknam said Tanner and Reed have been approved by the Skowhegan Board of Selectmen on a strictly volunteer basis. They will begin a five-day Law Enforcement Chaplain Certification Course on Monday at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro.

Course work is to include community policing and the changing criminal justice system, sensitivity and diversity, death notices, post-traumatic stress disorder, counseling officers after a serious incident such as a fatal accident, stress management, substance abuse and suicide.

“I have been trained — I have 400 hours of clinical pastoral education from the hospital, but I’m sure it’s quite different from being a chaplain for a police department,” said Reed, who lives in Vassalboro. “I’m sure it takes a special kind of person to be a chaplain for a police department. It will be a privilege to be someone who can be a listening ear and to discuss anything about matters of theodyssey — if there is a God, why is there suffering, anything of that nature, or if they’re though a faith lens, or just to process what happened and their feelings.

“I am a very good listener, or so I’ve been told.”

Bucknam said the chaplains are for any officer of any faith. The department has not previously had a designated chaplain.

Tanner, who could not be at the Tuesday interview with Reed and Bucknam, said in an email that it has been an honor for him to serve as Fire Department chaplain in Skowhegan and to serve as Police Department chaplain in an unofficial capacity for many years.

“Both the Fire and Police Departments are made up of a diverse group of personalities,” Tanner said. “Not one of us is the same. People respond differently to emergency situations. These situations can require split-second decisions. The decisions made can affect the lives of everyone around them.

“I believe no matter what is going on at that moment, these experiences can linger for days and months depending on the outcome. As a chaplain for first responders I have a responsibility to be present and available when called on. It is our responsibility to bring hope and encouragement as well as good listening skills to the job. I look forward to our collaboration in the community of Skowhegan in the months ahead.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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