San Jose Police Chaplaincy


Remembering Dave Bridgen


Rev David Arnold Bridgen

June 1, 1945 – December 31, 2017

Dave was born in Chicago, IL , on June 1, 1945, and was a long-time resident of San Jose, CA. He passed away peacefully on December 31, 2017, after a valiant battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was diagnosed with this dreadful disease in 2010.

Dave joined the United States Army and served in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive, where he came into contact with Agent Orange. This was the source of his Parkinson’s Disease. 

After leaving the Army, Dave returned to Southern California where he met the love of his life, Betty Ruth Clingen. They were married on June 27, 1969 and had been married for over 48 years at the time of his passing. It was during that time that Dave sensed God leading him into a life of ministry. He completed his Bachelor’s degree in Christian Education at Biola University, and his Master’s Degree in Christian Education at Talbot Seminary. Dave served as a pastor in several churches in Southern California, before coming to Hillside Evangelical Free Church, in San Jose. While serving at Hillside Church, Dave was approached by members of the San Jose Police Chaplaincy with the idea of becoming the San Jose Police Chaplain. At first, Dave worked as a volunteer part-time Chaplain, while working part-time for the church. Approximately five years later, Chaplain Dave became the full-time chaplain for the Department.

Chaplain Dave quickly became a resource for other law enforcement agencies around the country who were attempting to establish chaplaincies for their departments. In addition, he served as the Chaplain for the San Jose Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and also taught at the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. Dave was instrumental in several major innovations in the San Jose Police Department. Among others, he was instrumental in the implementation of the Critical Incident Stress Debriefing Program, the Family Academy for the spouses and significant others of our new officers, and the Community Chaplain program, where trained chaplains respond at all hours to major incidents to be a resource for families and officers in need. In 1999, Chaplain Dave was selected as the International Police Chaplain of the Year.

Chaplain Dave was very involved in the life of the San Jose Police Department. He could often be seen on ride-alongs or just walking the halls, talking to people from the SJPD family. He was a friend and a resource for the Police Department members, regardless of the time of day. 

Dave leaves his wife Betty Ruth and their two sons, Mark (Raquel) in Nashville, TN, and Matthew (Elise) in Richmond, CA, and three grandchildren: Niamh, Àine, and Henry. Dave also leaves a sister Jan (Dennis) Clark in Michigan and a brother Dan (Jeri) in Bakersfield, as well as other extended family.

A few weeks ago, Dave was meeting with a nurse practitioner from the VA Hospital. For several weeks, he it had been almost impossible for him to utter an audible sentence. On this day, Dave was having difficulty finding words and the nurse practitioner told him that she knew it was frustrating for him to not be able to express himself. In a clear, strong voice, Dave told her, “I just want people to see God in my life every day.” Over the years, I think that many of us in the SJPD family have seen God in Dave’s life. He was always a great example of a true servant. Until the time of his passing, Dave’s “trademark question” for everyone was, “Is there anything I can do for you?”