Defund police, civil unrest drive down officer morale

Tom KingFarragut, Our Town Leaders

In these days we hear about “defunding the police. Rioting. Looting. Killings. Kill the pigs! Blue lives don’t matter. Being a cop today is very different from what being a cop was not that long ago.

On Wednesday, the Rev. Pam Neal, chaplain coordinator of the Knoxville Police Department (KPD) for the past 22 years and president of the 2,500-member International Conference of Police Chaplains (ICPC), spoke to the Rotary Club of Farragut from her office at First Baptist Church Knoxville. That’s where she works full-time as the church’s minister of administration.

She was asked how all of this unrest about policing and the tension and unrest across the country is impacting the KPD officers.

“It is taking a toll. I see a lot and hear from the other chaplains. Morale is low. Many of the officers are discouraged,” she said. “Ninety-nine percent of officers everywhere are dedicated servants. They are demoralized by being lumped in with the bad eggs. The risks of being a cop are so much greater now than they used to be.”

Neal supervises 31 chaplains. There is a KPD chaplain on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. In 2019, they worked in excess of 12,000 hours – going to roll calls, counseling officers and their families when needed.

Neal understands the stresses of officers and those of their families. In March 2020, she and husband Ron celebrated 50 years of marriage. In 2005, after 32 years, Ron retired from the KPD as an investigator.

“Right now, our officers need our prayers more than ever. They are under tremendous pressure and a lot of it comes from concerned spouses and family members,” Neal said. “Many are leaving the profession, causing an even bigger strain on those remaining. I hope you will remember them and pray for them. Years ago, I started something I still do today. When I see blue lights, I start praying for the officers.”

The KPD chaplains will also work with the Knoxville Fire Department when needed, she said.

Neal closed her remarks with a request: “Please pray for our officers, and for all of our law enforcement chaplains as we work through the pandemic and the unrest in our society today.”

If you would like more information about the KPD Chaplain Program, you can email Pam Neal at [email protected]

To explore membership in the Rotary Club of Farragut, email [email protected] or call 865-659-3562. Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and has been the editor of two newspapers.

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