New chaplain at Timmins Police Service to provide spiritual back up when needed

Deacon David Smith is ready to listen. He will provide confidential spiritual guidance to all personnel at the Timmins Police Service regardless of their religious affiliation, practice or beliefs. Jan.16/22 (Lydia Chubak/CTV News Northern Ontario)

When a Timmins Police Service employee needs to call for spiritual back-up, Deacon David Smith will be there.

“He’s at the ready," said Marc Depatie, communications coordinator for the Timmins Police Service.   "We’ve made it clear within our own internal intranet site that he is at the disposal of officers to call upon at any hour within reason of course so that their needs are being met.”

The deacon is the newly appointed Chaplain for the Service and he will provide confidential spiritual guidance to anyone who requests it--regardless of religious affiliation, practice or beliefs. He is replacing Monsignor Pat Lafleur who retired in June. 

“I said do you really think I can do this and he said I wouldn’t be asking you if I didn’t think you could," reflected Smith.

This isn't the first time Smith has donned a police uniform.  He served as a sworn officer for one year in 1973. He said it wasn't for him, but this role feels right. 

“I look at myself as being a listening ear ... You want to talk? I’ll listen to you. I think that’s important. It makes them feel a little more secure and maybe positive in how things are going in their lives. They’re not alone," said Smith.

Depatie said the deacon's obligations will vary from providing workplace stress support, performing religious ceremonies, counselling for all personnel and their families to visiting members in crisis. 

Depatie said employee assistance programs and peer support options continue to be offered and although, the deacon is not a licensed councillor, he is another shoulder to lean upon, especially during this exceptional time. 

“COVID does not make our job any easier and still our officers are going to an increasing number of perhaps domestics; other forms of discord going on. It can be mentally taxing," said Depatie. "Perhaps a given officer might be of a more religious point of view or take greater value out of having their spiritual needs met as opposed to their mental health needs.”

“They want to have somebody they can see and to relate to rather than just a screen on a phone or the computer and I think that’s probably the most important thing is the one-on-one," added Smith. 

As someone with extensive life experience, Smith said he will also listen to people who need to get things off their minds when it comes to substance abuse, family issues and financial stress.