Chaplains are often called upon to walk alongside people in crisis and serve those who serve—whether in military, hospitals or emergency services.
Chaplain Sue Kuipers serves officers like Lt. Larry Vargas, who is retiring after 30 years with the department.
When Sue Kuipers became a police chaplain with the Hayward (Calif.) Police Department, she knew firsthand the crises that face officers.
Kuipers’s father, a 20-year retiree from the Navy, was a community service officer with the Hayward Police Department in the 1970s.
“Two days after my 17th birthday, June 29, 1974, he was attacked and killed by a prisoner attempting to escape,” said Kuipers. Kuipers’s father loved his job, whether working dispatch, enforcing meters, or finally serving as a night shift jailer.
“During the years since my father’s death, I often thought that I would like to somehow renew my ties to our police department. Whenever there would be a major incident where an officer was injured or worse, I would long to find a way to offer support and comfort to them and their family,” said Kuipers.
Kuipers, who is director of youth and education at Christ’s Community Christian Reformed Church in Hayward, found out after her ordination as a ministry associate that Hayward’s police department didn’t have a chaplain. With much encouragement and advice, she set out to change that.
Nearly a year into the job, she has had the opportunity to pray with an officer through the challenges of his job, hold a child who witnessed her brother being hit by a car, sit beside a woman whose boyfriend just died from an overdose, and more.
While police departments are often considered “closed communities,” that has not been Kuipers’s experience.
“On the day I became ‘official’ my supervising lieutenant said, ‘normally I welcome people to the HPD family,’ but for you I’m saying ‘Welcome home,’” said Kuipers.