Carl Schweisthal provides support as Upper Arlington's police chaplain

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group
Since becoming the Upper Arlington Police Department's first chaplain in February, Carl Schweisthal said he wants "to be there for the well-being of police officers, their families and the community."

The Upper Arlington Police Division’s first chaplain is working as a resource for officers and community members to bridge gaps and link services to help those in need.  

Since taking the volunteer position in late February, Carl Schweisthal said he has been working to become someone who officers can come to with a problem, someone they might listen to if he encourages them to get help for any number of issues, including domestic or substance abuse.  

“Because of my military experience, I get the environment. I get the chain of command,” Schweisthal said. “I want to be there for the well-being of police officers, their families and the community.  

“I’m kind of building the plane as I go.”  

Officer Bryan McKean said having a chaplaincy program gives the UAPD and the city another opportunity to provide a range of assistance to officers.  

“We’re exposed to greater traumas,” McKean said. “Having more than one venue or avenue where officers can get help or talk to someone about their problems, I think that’s a very positive thing.  

“The other piece is that he can link people who the police division comes in contact with to assistance programs and resources. We’re just glad to add another level of services.”  

Although he has a Christian background, Schweisthal’s role is nonreligious.  

The chaplain also serves as a liaison between the department’s 52 officers, its three civilian staff members and the police chief, but UA police chief Steve Farmer said Schweisthal doesn’t report to him.  

Farmer said if an officer has a problem at work or at home, he or she can speak to Schweisthal confidentially for support or links to specific counseling or other assistance.  

“Carl and I have an agreement that unless somebody’s breaking the law, what they talk about with him is between them,” Farmer said. “It’s totally confidential. Nothing is reported back unless it’s life and death or criminal.”  

Schweisthal mostly has sought to get acquainted with officers during ride-alongs, and he’s also available to accompany them during death notifications to members of the community.  

“I’m serving for their well-being, but also being a resource, helping bridge that gap between the department and the community,” he said. “I want the chief, the department and the city to reach their missions of serving the community.”  

About a year ago, Schweisthal began to inquire about how he could advocate for UAPD officers and be a resource as they encounter stresses and other struggles in their jobs and personal lives.  

A pastor at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church, Schweisthal has experience listening to and counseling people. He is also a U.S. Navy veteran who served as an electronics technician and enlisted surface warfare specialist in Desert Shield and Desert Storm.  

Farmer said he was impressed with Schweisthal’s credentials, including International Conference of Police Chaplain certification, and his enthusiasm to serve.  

Farmer had seen the benefits from having police chaplains during his 21 years with the Dublin Police Department. When Schweisthal was appointed, the UAPD had just lost one of its own when 10-year veteran, Officer Brian Brown, committed suicide Feb. 22. (every story I've seen says "died unexpectedly" so are we OK with calling it a suicide?) 

“We were planning his official rollout … literally the same week that happened,” Farmer said. “We said, ‘Well, Carl, start now.’ It’s a great program. A lot of it is, you have a confidential, friendly ear to share your frustrations with.”  

Farmer said he wants Schweisthal can be an intermediary of sorts, helping the public gain trust in police and helping police understand different cultures and issues in Upper Arlington.  

Schweisthal has been invited to participate in the UAPD’s fledgling Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program that seeks to create better understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion issues among officers and enhance public relations with different groups in the community.  

“Bringing the chaplain in as something ancillary that they do is a nice package to try to build these relationships and reduce fear of police in the community,” Farmer said. “I’ve understood for a long time that underrepresented groups, they fear police.  

“We want to build those relationships and we want to do it with a lot of underrepresented groups. I think our chaplain is a really good link for that. Carl works in a lot of different environments where he works with a lot of underrepresented groups and less-privileged groups.”  

Schweisthal agreed, saying he wants to help people in need in the community through his work with police officers.  

Already, he’s been able to link a family to free beds after police responded to a domestic violence call at their house and discovered children were sleeping on floors.  

“There are kids in Arlington – it’s happening all over the county – but there are kids in Arlington that are going to school that aren’t eating three meals a day, that don’t have resources for coats or shoes,” Schweisthal said. “Through my work with police and outside the police division, I want to be a resource.  

“Working with the police department and, hopefully, working with schools, it’s going to raise my awareness so needs can be met. There’s a crossover and it feeds into the broader vision of working for the well-being of the city.”  

nellis@thisweeknews.com  

@ThisWeekNate