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Retired Oklahoma City police lieutenant volunteers as chaplain

Dennis Frazier is a volunteer chaplain for Oklahoma City police. [Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman]

Dennis Frazier is a volunteer chaplain for Oklahoma City police. [Photo by Chris Landsberger, The Oklahoman]

Nearly 20 years ago, Dennis Frazier traded his police badge for a clerical collar.

Frazier, 73, retired as a lieutenant from the Oklahoma City Police Department in 1997 after 25 years of service. In 1999, he was ordained as a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, he said.

Today, Frazier serves as a volunteer police chaplain for the police department as well as a hospital chaplain on behalf of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

He also serves as a hospital chaplain, responding to calls across the Oklahoma City metro. He takes sacraments of the church to patients, often baptizing or bringing them back into the church in their final hours.

"If people can't come to church, the church should come to them," he said.

Raised as a Southern Baptist, he converted to Catholicism in the early 1980s after marrying his wife, Dianne, in 1976.

Frazier's mother and mother-in-law both died of cancer, so his empathy toward the sick led him to become a deacon after he retired from the police force.

"Police work is about helping people, and so is the deaconate," Frazier said.

Frazier recalled a time when he was making the rounds of Integris Baptist hospital, he felt compelled to take a different path than he normally would. He'd been up and down the same empty hallway twice when he happened upon a young woman. The woman's mother was a Stage 4 cancer patient, and she asked if he was Catholic clergy. When Frazier told her that he was a deacon, she asked to come in and pray with her mother.

During the visit, he noticed numbers tattooed on the woman's arm. Frazier asked about the tattoo, and the woman explained she had been imprisoned at Auschwitz as a young girl. After the war, she was taken to an orphanage run by Catholic nuns and converted, Frazier said.

"It's funny how the Holy Spirit works," Frazier said. "People can't orchestrate those things. Only God can."

As police chaplain, he attends lineups for officers starting their shifts and speaks to them privately if there's something they wish to discuss, he said.

Frazier describes his work with police as a "ministry of presence," leading prayers before police hit the streets for their shifts and offering spiritual guidance to officers. As a 20-year veteran of the department's tactical team, he also knows what kind of stress they endure, and he accompanies them whenever they are called to a scene, he said.

"They know I'm there praying for them," Frazier said.

He said it's not uncommon for him to drive 1,500 miles a month in his role as deacon.

Frazier said he is starting to slow down after nearly a half-century of service to his fellowman. He's taking a vacation to Rome this fall.

But he's not ready to quit being a chaplain just yet.

"It's kind of like police work. It's a calling," he said. "The Holy Spirit nudges you, and if you're receptive, you take it on."

Matt Dinger

Matt Dinger was born and raised in Oklahoma City. He has worked in OPUBCO's News and Information Center since 2006, and has been assigned to the breaking news desk since its formation in fall 2008. He specializes in crime and police reporting. Read more ›