New chaplain to fill void for police force

Susan Keirn-Kester was swore in Thursday by Fort Wayne Police Chief Garry Hamilton as the department's new chaplain.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – As the Fort Wayne Police Department hires more female officers, Chief Garry Hamilton says he noticed a void.  FWPD has several volunteer chaplains.  Until Thursday, all of them were men.  Chief Hamilton swore in Susan Keirn-Kester Thursday morning.  She is not the first female chaplain to join the force, but the first in many years to donate her time.

Hamilton says officers face challenges on a daily basis:  death notifications, fatal car accidents, shootings, domestic violence, and other violent crimes.  He says it is important to the Fort Wayne Police Department to have a wide variety of chaplains representing several denominations available for officers to speak with.  Hamilton says sometimes female officers just need and want a female chaplain to talk with.

“Being a diverse police department, diverse community it is important to have a female chaplain and it is a wonderful thing,” Fort Wayne Police Chief Garry Hamilton said, “We have female officers and now they have someone they can talk to.”

Eric Riddle the Senior Chaplain of the Fort Wayne Police Department says they were specifically looking for a female chaplain.  Keirn-Kester is now the department’s eighth chaplain.

“Our female officers face special challenges,” FWPD Senior Chaplain Eric Riddle said, “They are in a male dominated profession.  Susan comes from a pastoral ministry, a male dominated profession.  So, she has a background that will help her to minister to those special challenges that our officers face.”

Chaplain Riddle sent out an e-mail asking for a female chaplain who would be willing to volunteer to minister officers.  Keirn-Kester was the only one who responded.

“You could take that two ways, but I took it as God’s way of saying this is another step for you,” Susan Keirn-Kester explained.

Keirn-Kester said when she got her start as a minister, she was one of the first females.  She says she understands what some of the female officers are facing.

“I know that women sometimes react differently.  They experience and emote differently.  It is very helpful to be able to talk to someone who understands that.”

Keirn-Kester retired in June of 2014 after serving at Simpson United Methodist Church between Harrison and Calhoun Street downtown.

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