Police officers need special care, chaplain Ben Yablonski told the Lake Cowichan Christian Fellowship Church’s congregation, Sunday, February 20.
Having first started his RCMP chaplaincy program in Lake Cowichan, Yablonski has seen it grow over the years to stretch all the way across southern Vancouver Island; an area that includes over 400 police officers.
There have also been trips to Katrina, Washington, and elsewhere.
“These people don’t have the opportunity to go to church,” Yablonski said, adding that police officers often have to work Sunday mornings. “Doing this chaplaincy has helped them build their spiritual walk.”
Police have high levels of stress and long work hours, Yablonski said.
“It has divorce rates as high as 75 per cent,” he notes.
Suicide rates can also be high.
“They’ve got nobody to talk to,” he said. “With the pressures of work, there’s all types of stresses.”
Armed with body armor and gloves, Yablonski makes an effort of meeting with police officers as much has he can, while in the field.
“I’m in their field, working with them,” Yablonski said.
In addition to visiting emergency personnel at the scenes of incidents, Yablonski drives around with officers, meets with them at their offices and gathering spots.
One favourite spot, Yablonski said, is Tim Horton’s, which some RCMP members refer to as St. Timothy’s.
The program has taken off on the Island, he said. In addition to spreading around southern Vancouver Island all the way to Sooke, other groups have requested the service.
Having seen him so frequently at incidents, the Emergency Response Team has asked to be part of Yablonski’s services.
“They do the very hard, very dangerous stuff,” Yablonski said. “It’s too dangerous for normal police officers.”
Being a member of the Cop Care Society does not make him a paid RCMP officer, Yablonski said. Instead, it’s a non-profit society that works with the RCMP.
“This has been going so well at the police department, a lot of officers think I’m part of the department. But really, I’m a gift from the church to the police department,” he said.
It’s a result of the thank you’s and other little things that Yablonski knows that he’s done a good job.
One example he gave church members was a “Don’t forget Jesus loves you,” he’d seen written on his Tim Horton’s cup one day.