Tim Ralph has two jobs. He is a pastor and a law enforcement officer. On some days, he is both.
“I always look at it like this is my second church working here at the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department,” he explained.
Deputy Ralph is the Douglas County chaplain. He said the employees of the county are his family.
“I am here as a support service to help take care of the family,” he said. “Wellness, spiritual wellness, those kinds of things that affect the deputies and the civilian employees each and every day of their lives.”
It has been a tough job in recent months. Deputy Zackari Parrish was killed on the job on New Year’s Eve. Ralph has helped provide support to Parrish’s family, as well as other officers, since his death.
“Everybody is traumatized,” he said. “But at the same time, you have to stay somewhat focused and say – ok we still have something we have to do.”
“The real key is to keep everyone together,” he added. ”Just as it is in a SWAT team or anything else. It’s not one person, it takes a lot of people to get it done.”
Two more Colorado officers have been killed in the line of duty this year. This week is National Police Week, where officers are honored across the country.
Ralph, along with Parrish’s widow and several colleagues, traveled to Washington D.C. for some of the ceremonies.
In Adams County, Deputy Heath Gumm died in January.
“My job was just to be present and let them know we were here to do what needs to be done and check that they were eating and drinking and had their basic needs met,” explained Adams County chaplain, Joel Kershaw.
Kershaw, a civilian, is also a pastor at a nearby church. Not every officer is religious or follows the same faith. The chaplain said he can be a pastor, a friend, or a listening ear.
“We offer them prayer, we offer them a listening ear if they have somebody they want to listen,” he said. “We think we’re hiding our strength and our grief but we’re usually pretty bad at it. Just helping to find that kind of stuff. pointing it out and giving them tools to deal with it.”
Not all days are full of tragedy. Chaplains can also offer support on day-to-day things.
“Law enforcement is a difficult profession, it just is,” Ralph said. “These are the protectors, lights, peacekeepers here in our country and in our land. They just want to do their jobs, do them well, raise their families.”
The chaplains serve their departments so the officers can continue serving their communities.
“I think our officers need as much support as they can get,” Kershaw said. “They do a really tough job.”