Police Chaplain Reflects on 30+ Years of Providing Counseling During Tragic Events

Vincent O'Neill
Vincent O'Neill
Sgt. Tenari Maafala
Sgt. Tenari Maafala

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- For more than 30 years, he provided comfort during many of Oahu's biggest tragedies. On Wednesday, Honolulu police hosted a luncheon and recognized the contributions of a retiring police chaplain.

With giant hugs and countless stories, Vincent O'Neill wraps up 30-plus years with Honolulu police. The 69-year-old joined the department on May 16, 1977.

"True, lasting friendship. That, to me, is what I've gotten from the department," he said.

As a police chaplain, O'Neill offered spiritual guidance and counseling to officers and victims' families during their darkest times.

"The first event occurred within a week of my chaplaincy," he said. "It was announcing to a family in Waipahu the death of their son in a car accident."

Since then, he's provided support during many gut-wrenching events, including the November 1999 Xerox shootings that left seven workers dead.

"He brings that sense of comfort and confidence and, again, just a calm and peacefulness when he does show up at the scenes," Sgt. Tenari Maafala, Honolulu Police Department, said. "So it definitely is immeasurable and hard to replace."

While O'Neill wasn't called to last Thursday's incident in which a toddler was thrown off a freeway overpass, he fully understands the community's need to mourn.

"It needs to be talked about. It can not be suppressed or denied," he said. "And there's multiple ways in which that can be done. There are professional ways. There are group supportive ways, even talking to neighbors and friends about the tragedy."

O'Neill performed his duties as a volunteer. In 2007 alone, he logged 308 volunteer hours and was named HPD's Reserve Officer of the Year.

"I don't need to be recognized," he said. "I just am satisfied with myself if I know I've done an effective job."

The officers say you have.

O'Neill, who's a pastor at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in Aiea, is moving to Henderson, Nevada with his wife of nearly 40 years. He hopes to find similar volunteer work there.