Posted: Sat 6th Mar 2021

New police chaplain appointed to provide a “listening ear” forged his skills in South African politics for people living in or visiting the wrexham area

A new multi-faith chaplain appointed by North Wales Police to provide a ‘listening ear’ and support to officers and staff has made a long and interesting journey to our part of the world which more than qualifies him to administer pastoral care.

Laurie Searle is a familiar face in Wrexham, having been a Street Pastor for nearly four years.

He co-ordinates the work of the team which was set up in 2006 alongside the council, police and the Night Safe team to make the town centre a safe place for people to enjoy and to offer assistance to people who might be at risk.

However, before moving to Wales with his wife Caroline in 2017 to take up the post of pastor at the Fairhaven Congregation neat Llanfynydd on Hope Mountain, Laurie had played a distinguished and important role in the run up to post-apartheid politics in his native South Africa.

During the unsettling times before the first post-apartheid free and fair democratic elections in 1994 he chaired the Northern Province (Limpopo) Peace Committee.

Recalling that time Laurie said: “I advised the National Peace Committee on the causes of violence and intimidation in the region and negotiated with parties to settle disputes and monitor all peace accords applicable in the area as well as consulting regional authorities to limit or prevent violence and or intimidation.”

These listening and negotiating skills are still being put to good use in the important, if less daunting, arena of Wrexham’s night time economy.

Often working in cold, wet and icy conditions Laurie and other street pastors patrol the town’s streets.

Lockdown has had an impact on their work for the past 12 months, but statistics covering 2019 clearly illustrate the good work that team carries out.

Laure explain: “In 2019 our team of 30 volunteers undertook 77 patrols in which we made 2440 positive engagements with people on the streets and handed out 572 pairs of flip flops to women who needed them.

“We also collected 1130 empty bottles as well as 1432 empty beer cans from streets, making the environment safer and cleaner and we provided 31 meals to vulnerable people and handed out 20 bottles of water.

“On seven occasions we had to step into situations and arrange for an ambulance to provide emergency medical assistance to people in desperate need. We also took 53 vulnerable people to the Welfare Centre where the British Red Cross was able to provide medical assistance.”

Now Laurie has volunteered to take up a new post offering pastoral and spiritual care for the police service in an increasingly challenging time.

Policing can be a demanding and difficult role, particularly as so many of the things that officers and staff deal with are of a sensitive nature which means they are often unable to discuss what they do even with their nearest and dearest.

Those wanting someone to talk to, whatever the situation or subject and irrespective of religious background now have a team from the chaplaincy service who will provide ‘a listening ear’.

Laurie said: “We may not have all the answers, but we have learned to listen, to try and help the person identify what their need may be so that they can be helped or signposted to someone who has the necessary skill and expertise to help them.

“As new chaplains in the North Wales Police we look forward to interacting with our colleagues and supporting them as they serve their local communities.”

Citizens in Policing Manager, Chris Perkins added: “Ensuring that our workforce is fit, healthy and happy in mind, body, and work-life will enable us to achieve our vision of making north Wales the safest place in the UK.”

“The service provided by our volunteer chaplains will complement other departments such as occupational health, welfare and counselling, wellbeing, and staff networks and associations. They can also signpost to other organisations if required.”

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