Sheriff’s department adding chaplain services


At a recent Fellowship of Jackson County Clergy meeting, one of the people in attendance bared a badge and carried a firearm.

Sheriff Rick Meyer had a request for the group.

During the gathering, Meyer expressed his interest in adding a chaplain to his staff, and asked if anyone in attendance would be interested in getting involved with the department.

While none of the clergy gave an immediate response, the question grabbed the attention of Trinity United Methodist Church Pastor Mike Seaney.

"That kind of perked my ears," Seaney said. "I came here (to Seymour) 14 years ago and had been a fire chaplain at Whiteland for five years prior to coming here, so I knew the value of that program. When I came here, I looked to see if there was something like that, but they didn’t. At that time, the sheriff and its administration didn’t see a need for it. When (Meyer) mentioned it, I thought I should look into it since I have experience in it."

A couple days after the initial meeting, Seaney reached out to Chief Deputy Dustin Steward to discuss the position.

Not long after that, Seaney agreed to come on board with the department as a volunteer.

"It’s kind of twofold," Seaney said. "One is being available to go to a critical incident. Whether someone is hurt badly or someone has died, I’ll be there to help the sheriff’s deputies that are responding. Many times, they have a lot to do and can’t deal with the family who might be there asking questions. As a chaplain, I can be there and help them through the painful time and answer questions. I can focus on whatever need they have. I did that at Whiteland many times."

The other part of the role will focus on helping staff members at the department.

"A lot of times, (officers) have to emotionally detach what’s going on in a situation," Seaney said. "Later on, they need a time of debriefing. They need a time where they can let all that pent-up energy out. From the dispatch to the deputy responding, they need a time to let it out verbally, being able to share what they’ve gone through. It helps them to go home or continue their job more effectively. A lot of their spouses, they don’t understand the ins and outs of the job."

Seaney has preached full-time for 40 years.

The Richmond, Indiana, native said he started preaching while in seminary in northwest Ohio. Seaney said he has spent most of his career in southern Indiana, spending the past 14 years in Seymour after working in Whiteland.

Meyer said he sees a lot of value in bringing on a chaplain.

"Police officers, dispatchers, jail officers, administration, we all have stressful situations that happen on the job," Meyer said. "Dispatchers may take a 911 call or an officer may go to a tragic scene. It’s nice to be able to have a chaplain that we can come back and talk to."

Meyer said it can be tough for his officers to talk about some of the stressful situations they’re put through at times.

"It’s sometimes hard to talk to a fellow officer about feelings," he said. "It gives them a chance to express what they are feeling, or if they are upset. We’ve had dispatchers in the past that have taken tragic calls on their own families. We haven’t had someone to go to in the past."

Meyer said that while the jail has had a chaplain in the past for its inmates, he isn’t sure the last time there was one for the staff of the department.

Seaney said he will receive identification and have a shirt made to designate his position. 

He said that he wants to meet as many people as possible, as soon as possible, so he can get to know the staff of the department.

While Seaney will be retiring from Trinity United Methodist on June 30, he plans on continuing to help the sheriff’s department for as long as they will have him.

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