04/06/11 — County hosts state sheriff's chaplain meeting

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County hosts state sheriff's chaplain meeting

By Ty Johnson & Steve Herring
Published in News on April 6, 2011 1:46 PM

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The North Carolina Sheriffs' Chaplain's Association held the Spring Training Seminar in Goldsboro this week. Hosted by Wayne County Carey Winders and Chaplain Pete Williams, they presented a program that touched on gangs, technology, ethics and other issues facing law enforcement. Wayne County Deputy Matt Miller gave a presentation on gangs.

Nearly 40 chaplains from sheriff's offices across the state were in Goldsboro on Monday and Tuesday to continue their training through the North Carolina Sheriffs' Chaplains Association.

Sessions during the semi-annual meeting included topics ranging from ethics to gangs to law enforcement technology.

What the association does is certify chaplains to be sheriff's office chaplains, said the Rev. Pete Williams, chaplain for the Wayne County Sheriff's Office since 2001.

About half of the state's 100 sheriff's offices have the volunteer chaplains. Williams is a not a sworn officer, but chaplains can be.

"We do counseling with officers because they go through things just like we do," Williams said. "Then we do death notifications. Those are the two major things that we do -- if somebody is killed in a wreck or something tragic happens to someone. We go to the hospital, to the home whatever the sheriff wants us to do. They (officers) are trained to do it, but they don't want to. It's tough."

Chaplain can also help out at crime scenes, he said. If somebody is murdered or something tragic has happened and a lot of people are there, the pastor can come in and help calm them down, he said.

"A lot of times where we are on a crime scene we were actually able to help out the investigation because we are able to get a family member to calm down or back them off ... and let the officers do their stuff and investigate the crime scene," Williams said.

"I also do debriefings, like if a shooting happens or if they see a murder several years ago like the little girl that was killed," he said, referring to a recent shooting. "That was tough on our officers. They are wearing a badge and carrying a gun, but that doesn't take away their humanity. They saw that baby lying in that ditch and that was a terrible thing. They see a lot of bad stuff."

That is also true if an officer is involved in a shooting, he said.

"It is therapy, it is counseling, it is being their friend. Chaplaincy is a little bit different than being a pastor. I love it because I am actually helping."

During the afternoon session, Sgt. Matt Miller of the Wayne County Sheriff's Office spoke to the group about gangs.

Miller said that when gangs first began showing up in North Carolina that they were considered "wannabes" and did not receive a lot of attention. However, he said, Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders has been proactive in positioning the department to address the problem.

Chaplain Bryant Pierce of the North Wilkesboro Police Department spoke on chaplain ethics, saying that most law enforcement officers have an innate moral compass that guides them.

Quoting Psalms, he spoke of not judging and insisted that the job of law enforcement is neither to fill stat sheets or enforce laws blindly, but to have compassion and question whether an officer's actions benefit the community.