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Kitsap County Sheriff's Office finds God

The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office found God Wednesday.

Two pastors, Russ Reuther and Dennis Magnuson, officially became the first volunteer chaplains for the department when they were sworn in May 1 at the Kitsap County Court House by Sheriff Steve Boyer.

Reuther serves as the associate pastor for Calvary Chapel of Silverdale. Magnuson is the pastor of the United Methodist Church in Seabold on Bainbridge Island.

Both men have previously served as fire chaplains. Magnuson worked with the Tacoma Fire Department and Reuther is a former lead chaplain for Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue.

“I wanted to help out the community if I could and they approached me to see if I wanted to take part in it,” Reuther said.

The move to establish the chaplain program was spearheaded by Detective Lori Blankenship to fill a gap the sheriff’s department had in its support structure. A committee of corrections, patrol and dispatch staff was created to establish the program and develop procedures for the peer support program and line-of-duty deaths.

“The employees were inquiring why we didn’t have this because it’s something other departments have,” said Patrol Sgt. Kathy Collings who nominated the committee members for a commendation award for their service.

Blankenship said the chaplains will be following their mission statement of “serving those who serve” by helping deputies, corrections officers and staff members in times of need of spiritual or emotional support.

“We’re not there to proselytize and we’re very clear on that,” Magnuson said. “That’s one of the ground rules.”

Sheriff Steve Boyer said the chaplains also will serve as counselors for his staff.

“Deputies experience things daily that most people rarely see,” Boyer said. “You keep that bottled up inside you and it could effect you in how you do your job. It’s important to ensure a quality mental health picture for our folks to provide a better service for the citizens of this county.”

This internal source of guidance is different than other chaplain roles in other emergency services.

“Generally in emergency services the chaplain is there for the general community,” Magnuson said. “This is very different because it’s specifically directed at the sheriff deputies and not for the whole community.”

To learn about what the deputies go through during a shift, the chaplains are required to spend at least eight hours a month riding on patrol dressed in civilian clothes and a bulletproof vest.

“The purpose of the uniform is ceremonial,” Magnuson said. “We don’t wear the uniform on patrol because you don’t want to be mistaken for a sworn deputy — that could create a problem.”

Having a law enforcement uniform isn’t new for Reuther, a former bicycle cop in San Diego with a degree in criminal justice.

“It’s nice to serve in a capacity I’m familiar with,” Reuther said, “plus it’s fun. We’re going to do what we can and make things a little better in bringing the sheriff’s office comfort and solace to their duties.”

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