A VOLUNTEER police chaplain has told of how a near-death experience led to him discovering his Christian faith.

Roger Bird, of Tavistock, has been a volunteer with Devon and Cornwall Police for ten years. He supports personnel in all roles in the force, whether on the front line, in the most stressful roles or in support jobs.

He wears a uniform and visits staff in police stations and offices to listen to concerns, whether job-related or personal. His faith is the reason Roger does his work, it guides him, but he does not preach to the people he helps.

The retired butcher, who worked for Palmers of Tavistock, said: “My job is to listen to colleagues as they talk about anything that is an issue in their lives. It might be professional or personal and domestic issues but I support them all in the same way, by caring, listening and helping.

“Like many people just doing their job, they can bottle it up. But with police officers it can be particularly hard to share their feelings and thoughts and deal with the stress and trauma. They can’t share it with their families, because of the nature of police work, dealing with incidents and crimes, which cannot be made public. So, they get used to bottling things up, which is when the problems with mental health begin. So, the more that police staff can talk, the easier it is for me to help, but more importantly for them to help themselves.”

A tool to help unlocking staff concerns is cake – Roger makes sure he takes flapjacks on his regular visits, something that he learned while working as a street pastor in Tavistock, a community service he set up in the town. The street pastors take lollipops to help engage with people they help on the streets at night.

It was after this that he applied for the new role of volunteer chaplain. The roots of his faith are with his parents. He initially rebelled against religion as a youngster. But while in hospital recovering from a near-fatal road accident he discovered God was relevant to his life.