BOZEMAN, Mont. – Delivering news that a loved one has died is the most common way the public interacts with the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office chaplains. However, the chaplains say their primary duty is to help law enforcement.
“They do things the normal person can’t do,” said Chaplain Randy Jones. “They face things, they have to make decisions, they see things and all the rest. The cumulative effect of all that over time is if it’s not processed in a healthy way, (it) can take them down a few notches and make them less effective.”
Jones says that’s why he and Chaplain and Kathi Gregoire check in with officers, dispatchers, and other staff on a daily basis. The two help first responders process things they have seen, smelled and heard on crime scenes.
“They’re consummate professionals but the human side is still touched and if you just keep it in, that stuff will always find its way out,” said Gregoire.
Recently their roles turned double duty because the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office was responding to an incident that impacted their own.
Captain Jim Anderson’s wife was killed when their drift boat crashed and flipped on the Yellowstone River. Anderson’s son’s body has still not been recovered more than two weeks later.
“This is something that we do all the time but when it’s people that we know, it’s different, it cuts deeper,” said Gregoire.
Since the family needed to be notified and officers needed support, additional chaplains were called in. Chaplains work on a volunteer basis with two working full time and three on-call. Jones says the Anderson case solicited an “all hands on deck” type of response.
The chaplains say the job is fulfilling because they help restore law enforcement hurt by tragedies and keep them resilient.