Law Enforcement Chaplaincy by Mark Clements

Law Enforcement Chaplaincy
Mark Clements

Chaplain Mark Clements and his wife, Paula, have been married for 33 years and have two adult children. Chaplain Clements has pastored Living Word Christian Church in La Crosse, Wisconsin since 1984. Read his entire bio at the end of this article. The Successful Death Notifications training manual may be purchased by contacting

Law EnforcementOn Monday, June 19, 2000, my wife, Paula, and I were attending the MWPA (Midwest Word of Faith Pastors Association) Family Camp in Green Lake, Wisconsin. A time of praise and worshipping God had just concluded and the first speaker of the week had been introduced, but before he opened his Bible, Rev. Al Gluchoski gave an utterance in other tongues. Very much to my surprise, he pointed down to the end of the front row where I was seated and said, “Please come up here. That was for you.” After I did, he gave the interpretation, which started out, “The Lord is about to make you a person of influence with persons of influence….” I was certainly interested in what this might mean, and on the way back to my seat, in my spirit I heard the words, “Chaplain with the La Crosse Police Department.” I had been in pastoral ministry for 16 years at that point and had never even heard of – let alone pursued – police chaplaincy; furthermore, I didn’t have the foggiest idea of how I might go about pursuing it. Little did I know, I didn’t have to. Upon returning home from that conference, I found in our mail a letter of invitation signed by Chief Ed Kondracki of the La Crosse Police Department inviting me to an informational meeting in mid-July concerning the forming of a brand new program within the department – a police chaplaincy program!

That series of events, now almost 14½ years ago, began for me a journey in ministry that I hadn’t foreseen, didn’t expect, couldn’t have predicted, and which has been challenging as well as rewarding, frustrating as well as satisfying, has had the potential to produce tears, fears, be immensely exhilarating (and nearly everything in between), and a ministry beyond any and all doubt to which I am called to!

There was so much for me to learn in regard to being a law enforcement chaplain. One of the first books that I received — and that was so very helpful to me — was Chaplaincy in Law Enforcement: What It Is and How To Do It. I would highly recommend this book to anyone that has an interest in learning more about law enforcement chaplaincy. (Ordering information is included below.)  I was aware of chaplains that serve in our military, in our jails and prisons, in hospitals, and with fire departments. The rise of chaplains in the workplaces had even caught my attention, but chaplains that work with the police?? What do they do? What types of situations do they serve in? Is this a paid position, or are they volunteers? I received answers to these and many other questions during that time. The following is some of what I learned.

Modern day law enforcement chaplaincy is still rather new. The International Conference of Police Chaplains (, the premier law enforcement chaplain organization in the world, was only founded in 1973. I discovered that while the basic principles of law enforcement chaplaincy are pretty standard, there are some uniquenesses and variances between agencies and departments. For example, some chaplains serve a single department, others multiple agencies. Most are volunteers, but some serve in a paid position – full time. Some serve departments that pay for their training, others receive no support at all. In other words, I’ve learned that you can’t just look at one person’s chaplaincy experience and deduct that’s the way it might be for you. It takes some research.

I learned that law enforcement chaplaincy is generally like a two-sided coin, with one side being of service to men and women of law enforcement – local, county, state, and federal – and their support staff and family members, and the second side of the coin being victims of both crime and tragedy. The law enforcement chaplain is integrated as an official part of the police department and responds alongside of officers to assist individuals and their families that have been involved in emergency situations such as: making death notifications, providing assistance to victims, and assisting at suicide incidents. Police chaplains are called when there are automobile accidents, assaults, fires, burglaries, as well as when there are missing children, drownings, and in any urgent situation in which a chaplain’s presence to provide counsel and comfort would be beneficial. Police chaplains also make referrals, help with locating resources, and assist victims in contacting their families and/or their own clergy, and serve as liaison with other clergy in the community. They serve as part of a department’s Crisis Response Team and also deal with transients and the homeless. Police chaplains also minister to all members of the police departments which they serve, providing a “listening ear,” with all confidential communications legally protected. Chaplains often provide counsel to officers, to other members of a department, and to their families. They visit sick or injured officers and departmental personnel in their homes and in hospitals. Police chaplains teach officers in areas such as stress management, ethics, and family life, as well as furnish responses to religious questions. They serve on review boards, awards recognition boards, and other committees. Chaplains are also available to the departments to perform services such as:  weddings, retirements, and funerals. They represent the police departments at and participate in official functions and observances and offer prayers at special occasions such as recruit graduations, awards ceremonies, and building dedications. Due to the close relationship with law enforcement, chaplains undergo an extensive background check and a wide variety of training offered both by the department and organizations such as the International Conference of Police Chaplains.

No one is confronted with more situations that demoralize and create emotional, mental, and spiritual burdens than today’s law enforcement officer. These burdens also affect the officer’s family and other members of his or her department. Law enforcement agencies need the specialized guidance, counseling, and assistance for their officers, families, and communities. A law enforcement chaplain is a clergy person with special interest and training for providing pastoral care in the high powered and dangerous world of law enforcement. This pastoral care is offered to all people, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, creed, or religion. It is offered without cost or the taint of proselytizing. The law enforcement chaplain is led in his or her own faith to be available and ready to serve those in need. The chaplain’s ministry provides a source of strength to law enforcement officers and their families, other department members, and members of his or her community. The law enforcement officer’s clergy person or religious advisor in private life, although trained in ministry, is not necessarily abreast of the particular problems and dangers faced by officers. Chaplains listen and participate in the workplace of law enforcement officers with empathy and experience, advising calmly in the midst of turmoil and danger, and offering assistance when appropriate and requested.

Currently, I serve in the position of Head Chaplain in our local chaplaincy (the La Crosse Area Law Enforcement Chaplaincy), overseeing a group of 26 active and reserve chaplains – serving the La Crosse and Onalaska Police Departments and the La Crosse County Sheriff’s Department (through which I serve six other smaller jurisdictions as well). Since 2004, I have served as a Chaplain for the FBI and am currently working with the Wisconsin State Patrol to develop a chaplain program for their agency. I assist in training law enforcement chaplains and officers as an instructor for the Wisconsin Department of Justice and am a certified instructor for the International Conference of Police Chaplains. In 2011, I was elected to the position of Vice President within the International Conference of Police Chaplains, and will, in July of 2015, step into the position of President and serve a two year term.

Two things I’ve learned in regard to serving in the capacity of a law enforcement chaplain:

  1. As with every other aspect of ministry, attempting to do this without the Lord’s help dooms a person to burn out in failure. The situations that you are called upon to deal with and the people and life’s circumstances that you come in contact with are immensely stressful, traumatic, and beyond anything you ever experience “inside the four walls of the church” or at home. You come into people’s lives at their lowest possible moment, often when they are traumatized and emotionally decimated. This is when you, as the Good Samaritan, are privileged to get down in the ditch with them and pour in oil and wine. When it’s an officer or their family member going through divorce, substance abuse, or depression, you are privileged to minister to “one of God’s ministers” (see Romans 13:1-6), and in every moment of this ministry, it is absolutely essential to have the Lord’s help, wisdom, and strength, to have His presence with you, and to have His hand upon you.
  2. To be a successful law enforcement chaplain requires the support of my spouse, my family, and of my church. As a husband of 33½ years, and with two (now adult) children, I know I’ve gotten called out at dinner time, on Christmas Eve, or away from other family events on a number of occasions, but my family’s heart has always been, “You go. We’ll pray.” The heart is the same in the congregation of our church – Living Word Christian Church in La Crosse, Wisconsin – where I just celebrated my 30th anniversary of pastoring. Our congregation is full of wonderful people who have taken on a partnership with me in this ministry and who pray for, bake for, give towards, and, in a variety of other ways, assist in this outreach to law enforcement professionals and to victims of tragedy and crime. I can truly say that I have never heard even one complaint concerning my involvement in law enforcement chaplaincy.

Several years ago, my wife and I were returning from a conference and stopped at a fast food restaurant drive-thru in Springfield, Missouri. Two cars ahead of us was a police officer in his squad car. After he got his order, he pulled over to the side. I stepped out of my vehicle and tapped on his window. He cautiously rolled it down part way. I told him, “I’m not from your community, but I appreciate what you do. I wanted to say thank you.” That officer got out of his car, extended his hand, and told me that in 18 years as a law enforcement officer, no one had ever thanked him. I assured him that I was grateful for the peace and safety that we all enjoy here in America – for the fact that my kids can walk to school or play in a city park and that my wife can stroll through the mall without fear – and that this is due in great part to the work the men and women in law enforcement do each and every day at all hours, in all weather conditions, and on every holiday. Law and order go together. We have order (peace, safety, security, freedom) because we have laws, but laws in themselves are powerless without someone who enforces them.

I thank our God for our law enforcement officers – and the work that they do – as His ministers.

Recommended Reading

Chaplaincy in Law Enforcement: What It Is and How to Do It – 2nd Edition. David W. DeRevere, Wilbert A. Cunningham, Tommy W. Mobley, John A. Price (Charles C. Thomas Publishers, 2600 South First St., Springfield, IL 62704. 2005).

How Police Chaplains Can Serve Your Community. Chief Rob Hall ( June 14, 2012).

Chaplain Mark Clements
Biography, 2014

International Conference of Police Chaplains President-Elect Mark Clements has been a law enforcement chaplain since 2000, joining the ICPC in 2001 and becoming the sixty-ninth Life Member. He has served as Chair of the Spiritual Oversight Committee, as the ICPC Wisconsin Area Representative, and on the Education Committee. Chaplain Clements is an ICPC certified instructor and member of the ICPC Disaster Response Team and Visionary Committee. Chaplain Clements is credentialed as a Master Chaplain with the ICPC and in 2011 received the prestigious John A. Price Award for Excellency in Law Enforcement Chaplaincy. Chaplain Clements is the President and Founder (2002) of the Wisconsin Police Chaplains Association (WPCA), an organization that promotes police chaplaincy to every law enforcement agency within the state and promotes membership and involvement in ICPC to each of its members. In conjunction with the WPCA, Chaplain Clements is a member of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Death Response (LEDR) Team and the Mississippi River Valley Critical Incident Stress Management Team also serving on its Executive Committee. In 2012, Chaplain Clements was appointed by the Governor of Wisconsin to serve on the Governor’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. Chaplain Clements earned a Bachelors’ Degree from Trinity Biblical University and is currently earning his Masters Degree through Andersonville Theological Seminary.

Chaplain Clements is a chaplain with the Federal Bureau of Investigation serving on its National Steering Committee. He is also the President of the La Crosse Area Law Enforcement Chaplaincy, which serves the La Crosse Police Department, Onalaska Police Department and the La Crosse County Sheriff’s Department, managing a team of 28 chaplains. Chaplain Clements has assisted 14 law enforcement agencies in starting chaplaincy programs in their departments. Chaplain Clements annually hosts a Law Enforcement Appreciation Picnic for all area law enforcement personnel and their families. Chaplain Clements is certified as an instructor by the Wisconsin Department of Justice teaching at police academies for all law enforcement personnel in a seven-county region. On June 15, 2010 Chaplain Clements met with the Relational Skills Advisory Committee of the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) Law Enforcement Standards Board to establish a Death Notification training segment in the current 520-hour standard curriculum. The Wisconsin DOJ agreed to adopt the “Ten Steps to Successful Death Notifications” that Pastor Clements presented to their curriculum for all law enforcement personnel in the State of Wisconsin. Pastor Clements authored the training manual *Successful Death Notifications that assists law enforcement chaplains and agencies world-wide in this arena.

Chaplain Clements has been recognized by the City of La Crosse Police Chief Edward Kondracki receiving the Chief of Police Superior Achievement Award in 2004, the Chief of Police Distinguished Citizens Service Award in 2006, and a Certificate of Appreciation for dedication and service to law enforcement in 2009. He has also been recognized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller for Outstanding Assistance provided to FBI Personnel in 2007 and Exceptional Service in the Public Interest in 2009, and was awarded a Certificate of Commendation for excellence in law enforcement chaplaincy for service to the Bureau in 2011. He was selected and awarded the 2011 Excellence in Law Enforcement Chaplaincy Award for the state of Wisconsin by the International Conference of Police Chaplains.

Chaplain Clements and his wife, Paula, have been married for 33 years and have two adult children. Chaplain Clements has pastored Living Word Christian Church in La Crosse, Wisconsin since 1984.

* The Successful Death Notifications training manual may be purchased by contacting