Life in Lockdown as a Police Chaplain

Guest blog from KLS member Tina Higgins

The latest in our series of guest blogs from our members. Tina Higgins has been a Police Chaplain for Surrey Police since 2018 and in this post she tells us about the role of a Police Chaplain and how this has changed during the lockdown.

Just over 2 years ago I was asked if I’d be interested in becoming a Police Chaplain.  I used to lead visits for Surrey Police to my last shul. (I even, on occasions, was asked by the officers if it was ok to bring guns into the building as they were ‘on duty’!) This was how I met Patrick, who was in charge of the county’s Police Chaplains, when he took officers to various places of worship so that they had some understanding of different faiths. 

My training duly took place in early 2018 and I was assigned Staines police station as the current chaplain was due to be leaving at the end of the year.  Oh, the joys of schlepping up the M25!

Tina Higgins with Piccolo – one of her donkeys

I did ask Patrick why he had thought of me as suitable material to provide our intrepid police force with assured confidentiality, smiles, broad shoulders – and cake (not difficult for a nice Jewish girl!) I somehow imagined the response would reference my wisdom and knowledge – but no – apparently it was my sense of humour.  I have since come to realise that is probably the No.1 prerequisite.

Police chaplains are people of faith who embrace all members of the force, from frontline officers to back room staff, regardless of their faith.  Our own faith only comes into play when dealing with a situation that pertains to that religious perspective.  We offer support and sometimes act as a ‘signpost’ to external organisations if appropriate.

Like the rest of the world chaplaincy had to reinvent itself last year; online and dial-in meetings, emails and updates in the quarterly magazine took precedence over face-to-face meetings. A general feeling of being out of touch and uselessness came over me. However due to some changes in the structure of the team, as at the start of this year I am the Public Protection Chaplain at Mount Browne – HQ, just outside Guildford, which is much closer to me. When we are allowed to travel again, as well as the officers who make up the teams I’ll be working with, I’m also looking forward to meeting the amazing police dogs from all over the country who undergo their rigorous training at Mount Browne.

I was already on a wellbeing and inclusivity team which are key watchwords in the force and recently some 120 police officers, key force personnel and chaplains had a Mental Health webinar. I confess to being in floods of tears, in the anonymous safety of my study, as brave, frontline officers talked about PTSD, trauma and their mental health.

So, new year, new challenges.  The problems faced by those keeping us safe certainly sometimes put our own into perspective.