Culture and Trends ›

Hero Spotlight: Fr. Brandt, Chaplain for the Chicago Police Department / Nick Ehrhardt

Hero Spotlight: Fr. Brandt, Chaplain for the Chicago Police Department

Who He Is: Fr. Dan Brandt

What He Does: Tends to the spiritual and emotional needs of Chicago’s police officers

Fr. Brandt was kind enough to talk with Legacy about the unique challenges and rewards of his work as a chaplain.

Legacy: When did you first know that you wanted to follow a spiritual path?

Fr. Brandt: “Since third grade, really… I was ordained in 1999 and I served in a parish on the West Side, St. William."

Legacy: What are the challenges unique to counseling police officers?

Fr. Brandt: “Police officers see in an eight- or ten-hour shift (which we call them a ‘tour of duty’) more awful, atrocious things than most people see in a whole lifetime. Sometimes it haunts them, sometimes they carry that with them. And once in a while they'll reach out. They're not good at asking for help, they're fixers. They're good at fixing everybody else's problems, but not at accepting their own issues or realizing that they, too, need some help from time to time.

...that's where trust comes in. They trust me because I'm not from the outside, I'm one of them.”

Legacy: What’s your favorite thing about the job?

Fr. Brandt: “I love everything about it, with this exception: suicides. And that's common in the police department. Suicide affects those in law enforcement at the second highest rate per capita. Twice as many officers take their own lives as are killed by aggressors.

Perhaps they won't go to their own clergy or spouse because they feel they might shock them with some of the stories they have. But they'll share with us more readily. Do they always? No, unfortunately. And those who need it most probably are least likely to come and get help or just an ear.”

Legacy: What do you wish that people knew about the Chicago police officers that you work with?

Fr. Brandt: “That they're human beings. They're good people. They took this job to serve others, to look out for others. There's the rare exception… unfortunately there's bad apples in every lot who might take the job for less pure reasons, to have power over people. But I think 99-point-some percent of them have very genuine and pure motives and really do want to make a difference. Want to make the world a better place for their own families or for others.”