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Chaplains sworn in at DCSO

by Merrie Leininger

Chaplain programs are a part of law enforcement offices all over the country, but until now, Douglas County has not had that little extra help provided by area pastors.

Six Carson Valley pastors graduated Friday night from the Truckee Meadow Chaplain Program. The pastors are now volunteer members of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, said Sheriff Ron Pierini.

Pierini said the group was formed after looking at the extensive program available to officers in the Reno area.

The six volunteers started their 60 hours of training in January.

Some of the training was provided by the Truckee Meadows Chaplin Program, and members of the DCSO also addressed the group to let them know specifically what is expected from them.

At the Friday graduation ceremony, the new DCSO chaplains received certificates and took the law enforcement oath.

“And we already used (one of) them. A person passed away in a convalescent center, and he dealt with the family,” Pierini said. “The deputy said it was the greatest resource he’d ever seen – he was freed up to do the paperwork, and the family did better with a trained person who truly knows how to help the family out.”

Pierini said it is also the department’s job to perform the duties of a coroner, also. Because of that, they have double duties at fatal accident scenes.

“They (the ministers) can take that burden off of us. They can assist us in any disaster that happens in dealing with the counseling. They’ll be a real support for our department,” he said.

The chaplains can also assist the peer counselors within the department, Pierini said.

There are five deputies who have taken training to help their peers with personal or departmental problems.

For instance, the officers who witnessed the death of seasonal deputy Ed Callahan at Lake Tahoe last summer needed more intensive counseling than the peer counselors were trained for, so the chaplains would be able to help in those situations, Pierini said.

Two chaplains are on call every month. Each is expected to ride along on patrol with a deputy every month and attend a meeting to discuss training and other issues once a month.

“They’re real busy with their own congregations, and we don’t want to take away time from that or from their families,” Pierini said. “All over the country, law enforcement offices have chaplain programs, but it is really unique to this area, and as the community grows, I think it is another part that will make us better.”

Pete Nelson, pastor of the Carson Valley United Methodist Church, said the time concerns were not an issue for any of the chaplains.

“Honestly, it is part of the definition of ministry. A ministry is a varied thing, but it comes down to helping people. We didn’t look at it as, ‘Here’s something else that is going to take up my time.’ We looked at it as here’s a chance to serve the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and the people they serve,” Nelson said.

Nelson, along with Dan Steen of Calvary Chapel, Leo Kruger of Valley Christian Fellowship, Rich Lammay of High Sierra Fellowship, Sebrone Denson of the First Baptist Church in Topaz Ranch Estates and Albert Vacek of Valley Springs Baptist Mission, hope to lighten the load of the deputies.

“They deal with things every day that other people don’t, and people expect them to be perfect. We’re there to tell them they are not alone and we know they are not perfect,” Nelson said.

He said he is not sure how the program will work until they dive right in.

“We’re not real sure what the job will look like yet,” Nelson said. “Over the course of time, we will find out just how it will define itself and how it will work. The success of the program is based on these first six (volunteers).”

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