After Bill Colonna and his wife, Shelly, witnessed a murder-suicide 12 years ago, he knew he wanted to help people in law enforcement.
"I had to go through life to be prepared to do this job," said Colonna, a chaplain with the Carson City Sheriff's Office. "After witnessing that murder-suicide, I thought, 'These guys need help.'"
Although it is a volunteer position, Colonna, 43, takes the commitment seriously. He has received certification training in Nevada Peace Officer's Standards and Training, Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, American Red Cross spiritual care training, International Conference of Police Chaplains West regional training, Carson City and Truckee Meadows Chaplaincy, Nevada Division of Emergency Management Incident Command System advanced training and, most recently, basic and advanced FBI training in crisis negotiations.
The ordained minister has been with the Sheriff's Department's chaplaincy program since October 2003.
"I got an insight into the psyche of the negotiator (through this course)," Colonna said. "I want to be as prepared as I can be. I seize every opportunity to do so."
Colonna said if a person is committed to law enforcement chaplaincy, he or she does it to help others - not for the badge.
"It's a big commitment. It's like any other part of your ministry - it becomes an outreach. But you don't preach; it's a ministry of presence. You're just there."
All chaplains go through specific training, a total of 62 hours to prepare for the job. Much of it deals with stress management, post-traumatic stress syndrome, sensitivity and diversity training, ethics, crisis situations, death notifications and what a chaplain can and cannot do.
His training can help anyone in the community, whether the person sees the need or not.
An example is "The Waterfall fire - everybody was affected," Colonna said. "Carson City could have gone away. We faced a major disaster. One way or another, this community was affected."
Colonna said he deals with his own stress through prayer.
"I get my own stress from seeing what deputies go through, then listening to them unload. That is what I'm here for. When they need to talk, I'm here to listen.
"I feel being a chaplain for the Carson City Sheriff's Office has made me a better person in some ways. I am a better minister for it. I am a minister. It's who I am and what I do. I'm here for the department.
"I never thought I'd have a love for people like I do for the department."
Colonna said the department could use more chaplains, but insists whoever applies, his or her heart needs to be there.
"All chaplains are finding their niche in the department," he said. "I'm doing what the Lord is telling me to do. This is my heart."
Colonna has been married 13 years and has one son, Dominick.
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