“It’s not just the officer who goes to work…it’s the whole family.”
Born and raised in Chicago, educated at Howard University in Washington DC, she received her Masters in Divinity from Chicago Theological Seminary and her Doctorate from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, OH. Reverend Dr. Kimberly Davis is chaplain with the Chicago Police Department, where she has served as an officer for 19 years. She is a mother of two teenagers, and her husband recently retired as a Chicago police officer. We had the opportunity to speak with Rev. Dr. Davis in April 2021.
Q: What does a Police Chaplain do?
We minister to the needs of officers, officers’ families, retirees, and their families the same way in which clergy would minister to their parish. It’s very similar to a church ministry, except the family is law enforcement. I wrote my PhD thesis on strengthening law enforcement marriages, which involves a lot of nurturing, a lot of mindfulness. Date night is mandatory!
Q: What is the most challenging part of your job?
The deaths can be very challenging, of course, especially when it’s someone that I know. We face a lot of death in law enforcement. A lot of death. But it hits home when it’s someone who’s in my same age group or a mom. I think, ‘Wow that could have been me.” But the challenges and setbacks of the job can be inspiring as well. I have been inspired by a number of people who lived through COVID, just the resiliency, the determination to not let getting sick stop them. I know that they are stronger from that experience.
Q : How do you counsel the family members left behind when they lose a loved one in the line of duty?
I thank the surviving spouse for their service. When one spouse goes on duty, the other spouse worries every day, and the children worry as well. It’s not just the officer who goes to work, in that sense, it’s the whole family. I let them know that their spouse did an honorable job, not just in the eyes of the department but in the hearts of the many people he or she touched. The people whose lives they touched will never forget, the city will never forget.
Q: When it’s your turn to retire from the Chicago PD, what will you miss the most?
The ride. It’s a ride. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but… what comes along with working in the police force is hypervigilance, the expectation of something happening, right? And being able to respond to it. I can’t believe I’m saying that I’m going to miss that, but… I’m not sure that hypervigilant state of mind will ever go away. I would miss that, if it did… the expectation of something happening. I would miss the action.
Q: What’s the most surprising thing you learned about yourself on the job?
Resiliency. Sometimes I didn’t think I could live through a situation, and lo and behold I did, and I look back and think “well, now you know”. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. By God’s grace, I made it through.
We put on our uniforms every day, and there’s a risk to being the police. There’s a risk to being in law enforcement. And while I’m a service chaplain, if I see something, I’m still required to take action. So there’s a dual thing going; I’m prepared at all times.
Q: Does a chaplain wear a bulletproof vest like the other police officers do?
Q: Do you carry a weapon too?
Q: It’s almost like two worlds colliding in one person. To be a chaplain carrying a weapon. Do you ever feel that way?
I don’t feel like I’m not the police. That’s just it. One of my friends says, “Well, you carry a gun in one hand and a Bible in the other.” (She laughs) But I don’t think about it that way. All of me shows up, in whatever situation.