In times of crisis, most people know to pick up the phone and dial 9-1-1. However, after the crisis has passed, many may not be aware that the police department can still assist the public with comfort, care, and the healing needed in order to move on after a traumatic incident.

Providing comfort and support to victims of crime and their families is just one way the Fresno Police Chaplaincy has served their community for over 30 years. Founded in 1981 as a nonprofit, the Fresno Police Chaplaincy’s mission is to connect the at-risk with those willing to risk – through providing immediate care and comfort to citizens during a crisis, connecting families with resources after a traumatic incident, and intercepting at-risk kids, to name just a few services the Chaplaincy provides. Patrol Chaplains are also trained to offer a confidential listening ear to police officers, in order to provide counsel and resources to assist officers with the emotional hazards of serving in law enforcement.

(Photo Credit: Fresno Police Chaplaincy)

Currently, there are 35 Patrol Chaplains serving 525,000 citizens and 1,000 police officers in the Fresno area. Chaplains are available 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, and may be called into service whenever an officer believes a situation will require their service, or if a citizen requests one. Chaplains often ride alongside patrol officers and act as first responders who are uniquely positioned to respond to emergent and non-emergent needs of Fresno citizens. The mobile unit of the Chaplaincy, named N.E.S.T. (Neighborhood Emergency Support Team), provides water, nourishment, and a safe place to rest for officers and community members who may be on extended service calls. In addition to N.E.S.T. and the services provided by Patrol Chaplains, the Fresno Police Chaplaincy has two programs specifically geared towards the community’s youth.

The first program, Project STEALTH (Stop Teen Exploitation And Liberate Through Hope), brings hope into the lives of at-risk youth through education, intervention, and mentorship. Astoundingly, Fresno averages 2,700 runaways each year; sadly, up to 10-12% of these youths fall victim to human trafficking.  A grant from the Central Valley Community Foundation has provided support for the STEALTH program’s operations, which specifically work to target at-risk youths who run away from home and to report these incidents before they lead to tragedy. Project STEALTH trains Chaplains in reporting requirements as well as how to connect with, evaluate, and offer mentorship to at-risk youth. Since its inception, youth who participant in Project STEALTH have demonstrated significant improvements in behavior, school attendance rates, and family dynamics.

A STEALTH Chaplain poses with mentored youth. (Photo Credit: Fresno Police Chaplaincy)

In addition to mentorship opportunities, Project STEALTH established the Fresno Teen Police Academy. Consisting of an 11-week-long program, the Fresno Teen Police Academy is an informational series of classes to educate youth about the Fresno Police Department and to enhance their relationship with officers. Teen participants work closely with members of various branches of the police department in order to gain exposure to a variety of positions, including working with crime scene investigators, patrol officers, traffic officers, and the K-9 unit. Teens who participate in the Academy and develop a desire to pursue a career in law enforcement have an opportunity to join the Police Explorer Program to become involved in community activities.

Participants of the Fresno Police Explorer Post #911. (Photo Credit: Fresno Police Chaplaincy)

Along with Project STEALTH, the Fresno Police Chaplaincy partnered with Fresno Unified School District to establish Project RISE (Resilience in Student Education) to address the interpersonal and intrapersonal development of students, beginning in the first grade. Statistically, children who grow up in single-parent homes are twice as likely to be abused and/or exploited. Many children in Fresno live in single-parent households, the majority of which are fatherless. Tragically, children who live in fatherless homes are 2-3 times more likely to use drugs, have educational, emotional, and behavioral problems, and experience additional negative outcomes. Research shows that students who possess strong interpersonal and intrapersonal skills, such as self-efficacy, emotional regulation, empathy, and impulse control are much more resilient and better able to “bounce back” from life’s challenges and maltreatment. School Resource Chaplains serving in Project Rise serve as mentors to young students, act as an additional layer of protection from abuse, and provide comfort and support to students, staff, and parents when needed.

School Resource Chaplains promote resiliency and “bounce back” thinking patterns to first graders through the reading and discussion of literature. (Photo Credit: Fresno Police Chaplaincy)

A School Resource Chaplain poses with a first grade class, who proudly present their RISE certificates. (Photo Credit: Fresno Police Chaplaincy)

If you are interested in becoming a Patrol Chaplain, STEALTH Chaplain, or School Resource Chaplain, please visit the Fresno Police Chaplaincy’s website for information on how to apply.

The Central Valley Community Foundation is proud to support programs like Project STEALTH and Project RISE and organizations like the Fresno Police Chaplaincy that work to serve the citizens of our community. For more information on grants from CVCF, please visit the Grants Overview page on our website.