Chaplain lifts spirits at Pasco Sheriff’s Office 

Chaplain Brian Brown — with his open-door policy — is a confidant for staff members at the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.

He’s one of a dozen chaplains assigned across the department’s three districts who counsel law enforcement officials.

In addition to providing direct services, Brown also oversees the agency’s chaplains.

Chaplain Brian Brown has been a spiritual guide for those in the Pasco Sheriff’s Office for nearly a decade. He provides a shoulder to lean on — helping agency staff to perform their duties to the best of their ability. (Brian Fernandes)

“We minister to agency personnel and their immediate family,” said Brown, who has served in this role since 2011.

Brown’s work in ministry began more than two decades ago, and has taken him to Pinellas, Osceola and Seminole counties.

In the late 1990s, the Pinellas Park native was able to merge his faith with law enforcement by becoming a chaplain for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

He and his wife moved to Pasco County in 2005 and successfully began their own church in Trinity the following year.

Over time, his focus began to shift toward serving the local sheriff’s office, he recalled.

“What I began to see was a strong need to bring faith and stability to the members of the agency,” the chaplain said.

He recalled hearing then-Pasco County Sheriff Bob White discuss, on television, the need for more deputies in the Holiday region.

Brown decided he wanted to guide deputies in dealing with the tension of their job, so they could engage well with citizens.

He recognizes the trauma and mental stress that agency members can experience frequently.

“How does that member process that? Where do they file that away inside of their brain?” Brown said.

To better understand their struggles, the chaplain rides along with deputies in their patrol cars, accompanying them on the field.

It gives officers the chance to open up about traumatic experiences or other difficulties.

Chaplains provide Critical Incident Stress Management training to help deputies deal with such issues.

During read-offs, deputies gather together throughout the day to discuss their agendas. At these events, Brown is present to offer prayer and words of encouragement before they head out on assignment.

Even agency officials who are not deputies receive the chaplain’s support.

In his position, Brown doesn’t typically interact with offenders. That’s the role of the detention chaplain, he said.

However, occasions arise at times at the scene of an incident, where he will try to help de-escalate a situation.

He describes the chaplain’s service as a “ministry of presence” – being readily available when a need arises.

This ministry is not about preaching; it’s about being a friend, Brown said.

When deputies want to have Bible discussions, he said, he is more than willing to engage.

He also has been asked by agency members to conduct personal functions, such as weddings, funerals, baby dedications and house blessings.

Brown met with Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco and other officials in 2015 to find a way to extend support to agency members’ families.

The chaplain reasoned: “If the family unit at home is struggling, then that deputy is coming to work, or that agency member is coming to work and they’re not on their A-game. How do we build a bridge from the home to the agency and the agency to the home?”

In response, the law enforcement agency created the Family Support Network. The network brings together the spouses and kids of agency members, to share their challenges with one another and empathize.

Those opportunities occur with programs such as Coffee and Conversation, and the Annual Spouse Academy.

These programs allow spouses to ask questions, address concerns, and listen to guest speakers who provide advice on trauma, finances and how to cope with having a loved one working in law enforcement.

There are also programs for kids, such as the Summer Blast camp, to help kids feel confident about having a parent in the agency.

“There was a day when there was a pride inside of you to say, ‘My daddy’s in law enforcement’ or ‘My mom is in law enforcement.’ Unfortunately today, that’s not always the case,” Brown said.

Brown’s schedule includes administrative work, connecting with local businesses, and fundraising — but he always makes time to speak personally with those family members.

The chaplain credits Sheriff Nocco for unifying the agency as a cohesive team.

As a unifier himself, Brown said he relishes in the more fun aspects of his work.

“For me, personally, it is an honor to get to invest in the lives of our members,” he said. “Sometimes you just need somebody to hang with you and encourage you — make you smile, laugh [and] make your side hurt a little bit.”

Published September 04, 2019

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