Criminal justice: Remembering the men and women behind the badge
Blessed are the peacemakers ~ Matthew 5:9
Law Enforcement agencies (police, deputies, troopers, investigators, parole/probation, corrections, etc.) throughout the United States consist of nearly 1 million men and women, who are called upon to confront evil on a daily basis.
The responsibilities of a police officer often take a considerable toll on an individual because of the things that they routinely see, the stress that they endure, and the hours that they work. Although almost everyone recognizes the physical difficulty and dangers that police officers face, very few understand that the job is no less challenging and dangerous spiritually.
In the United States, about 150 law enforcement officers are killed in the line of duty every year. However, officers are eight times more likely to take their own lives than to be killed from any accidental or line-of-duty action. When we take a look at police work and the research identifying what the biggest stressors are, we find:
· Killing someone in the line of duty.
· Having you partner killed in the line of duty.
· Lack of support, in the community and on the job.
· PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
· Shiftwork and disruption of family time/family rituals.
(Interestingly, concern for personal physical danger is ranked low on the list of stressors cited by officers.)
These higher stress levels revealed in a recent study of police officers that compared to the general (male) population police officers had:
· Higher mortality rates for cancer and heart disease
· Higher incidence of suicide.
· Higher incidence of divorce . Studies have called police work a “high risk lifestyle” causing intimacy and relationship problems. Other research shows that Law Enforcement personnel suffer a substantially higher divorce rate than the national average with estimates ranging from 60- 75 percent
· Higher incidence of depression.
· Higher incidence of addictions.
· Other spiritual/psychological illnesses at a rate much higher than the general population.
Police work has been shown to be one of the top rated professions for job stress next to air traffic controllers, dentists and clergy. A working definition of police stress offered by a law enforcement chaplain is:
“That feeling and desire along with the ensuing bodily effects, experienced by a person who has a strong and true longing to choke the living daylights out of someone who desperately deserves it, but … you can’t.”
Although this may sound funny, the sad truth is that there is enough accuracy to it to make us take a look at how we are doing ministry with our law enforcement professionals. While it has taken some time for the law enforcement community to recognize that there are dangers, traumas and scars that are not physical, many churches and clergy have begun to reach out to this specific subculture within our communities.
A good number of people who follow a career in law enforcement have very high motives for pursuing their careers. When asked, many officers admit to a religious or almost-religious purpose in their decision to become a cop. Some officers even confide that they were torn between a career in law enforcement or the clergy. But a career in law enforcement can have a very heavy cost to an officer’s spiritual, emotional and psychological well-being. Surprisingly there is a real lack of resources or programs available to encourage the spiritual lives of officers and their families. This lack of concern can create dangerous results for the community and for the officer. Certainly, any efforts that are made in this area of outreach can only support and strengthen the community as a whole.
At the beginning of a career, an officer may possess an abundance of confidence – or faith – in God, humanity and self, but the tragedies, heartbreak and evil that are seen every day can quickly weaken that faith. When negative media exposure, judgment against police officers, and political manipulation is added to that, it leaves many people with a mistaken view of what police officers are truly like. Take a moment to think of the person behind the badge, and remember that they are ordinary people who are called to an extraordinary task and many law enforcement officers have found the strength to carry out their duties through their faith in Christ.
A Demon Killed A Deputy Tonight
A demon killed a deputy tonight
and bloodied the badge that he wore.
He was shot in front of those he protected
as several watched in horror.
They watched from their windows
and they watched from the street.
They watched as the demon
took Mike’s last heartbeat.
The demon’s lawyer will stand up in court
and demand the demon was right.
But where was the court on that dark lonely street
when Mike could no longer fight?
He patrolled the dangerous streets of that city,
the streets that most would not walk.
He lay on his back on those same very streets,
but Mike could no longer talk.
Kneeling beside him, we tried to revive
a heartbeat, or maybe a breath.
His body never reacted, it never came back.
Mike had been lost to death.
I pleaded to God to give me more strength
and let me see Mike alive.
Mike , I prayed for you then with all of my heart,
as I will for the rest of my life.
~ Written by James Johnson in memory of Deputy Mike Hoenig