Sierra Law Enforcement Chaplaincy
Deputy Sorey, Steve Wright and Deputy Cooney
Every day we read about it in the news, see it on TV and thank our lucky stars for the courageous law enforcement officers who respond to tragic accidents, homicides and violent crimes. But the efforts by the people you don’t see are just as remarkable. For every crisis, there’s also first responders to the emotional and spiritual trauma that’s sure to follow.
Sierra Law Enforcement Chaplaincy supports the officers who keep our communities safe. Serving the entirety of El Dorado County as well as the City of Folsom, these men and women provide relief to law enforcement officers by engaging with the citizens who are involved in a calamity. Often, the officers do not have the time or the option to serve a death notification or to comfort a grieving individual.
The chaplains are available for call-out based on the needs of the community, but many of the calls they respond to are high-profile events in the local media and they do their best to work behind the scenes.
Founded in 1990 by Rev. Tim Thompson, the organization currently has 34 volunteer reserve chaplain team members. The chaplains “earn their stripes” through a process of interviews, background checks, class work and field training.
Steve Wright, senior chaplain of Sierra Law Enforcement Chaplaincy, is quick to explain that candidates must exhibit certain characteristics of heart and dignity. “A chaplain performs duties that require tremendous emotional strength and patience,” says Wright. “We walk families through the tragic loss of a loved one, help pick up the pieces of lives shattered because of mental illness, and comfort those impacted by the loss of life at the hands of another. We also handle issues—both personal and work related—that the law enforcement officers and agency support staff are dealing with themselves.”
Even with this range of services provided, Wright recognizes that there are preconceptions of what a chaplain does. “People often think we’re there to read the Bible and pray, but that is not our main purpose,” he says. “While scripture and prayer may help some individuals, our function is to help a person grieve in their own way, in their own time.
“Furthermore, we’re not just there for people who are religious,” Wright continues. “We serve everyone—regardless of their religious affiliations or lack thereof. Our primary role is to provide compassion, help people feel safe when their world has been turned upside down, provide accurate information, give practical assistance, and to help them take a step toward hope and healing.”
This September, the group is planning its second annual golf tournament; in addition to players and sponsors, they’re looking for volunteers to help. They’re also currently seeking candidates to work in El Dorado County and Folsom, with a Basic Chaplain Academy planned for this fall.
By Janet Scherr // Photos by Aaron Roseli © Style Media Group