Crime goes up in the summer months in San Antonio. It seems the South Texas heat drives people to stupidity. Nineteen-eighty-four was my first summer as a police officer, and the first time I was assaulted on duty. Not long after checking into service, I received a call to the downtown Marriott hotel. I drove to the hotel, notified dispatch, and stepped from the car.
I was immediately met by a sweat-drenched man wearing only a swimming suit. He walked up to me, and without saying a word took a swing. The fight was on! He hit, kicked, and spat at me while I tried to corral him. I stepped into him and drove him to the ground. Having gained control, I flipped him on his belly, and ordered him to comply. When he realized that he wasn’t going to win, he gave up. I cuffed, searched, and secured him in my blue and white. The fight was over. I had taken a couple blows, my uniform was a bit messy, and I had to pin my name tag back in place, but I wasn’t injured—and no worse for the wear. I got the information needed for the report and let dispatch know I was en route to the jail when I heard the sergeant on the radio instruct me to return to headquarters.
Whenever a sergeant wanted to contact an officer, it usually wasn’t for coffee, it was to chew the officer out for something. I didn’t know what the sergeant wanted, but I wasn’t looking forward to the meeting.
The sergeant and a detective met me in the office. I related the incident and the sergeant said, “Okay, write up an offense report for resisting arrest and book him for that.”
“Yes, sir,” I replied.
“I’m going to have a talk with him,” the sergeant said and left with the man in handcuffs. The detective showed me to a desk to write my report. A few minutes later the sergeant returned the prisoner to me and told him to sit down. I noticed red marks on his face consistent with someone who was slapped.
The sergeant pointed his finger in the man’s face and said, “You never assault a police officer, do you understand me?”
“Yes, sir,” was his whimpered response.
The sergeant looked at me, “Okay, Rupp, I think he understands.”
I suddenly felt a sense of uneasiness inside. What just happened? Some call it moral injury.
Moral injury is a wound concerning the principles of right and wrong. Moral injury is caused by participating in, witnessing, or failing to stop wrong behavior. Last year, Police1.com published an article about a Liberty University study by Michal Takacs and Boston Ross on moral injury in policing. The results of that study will be published soon. The term moral injury started gaining ground about ten years ago in the military. The term is new to policing.
Moral injury is spiritual injury. It is harm done to the spirit. It is not Post Traumatic Stress Injury, but it may result in PTSI. Physical injury is harm to the body. Mental injury is harm to the mind. Moral injury is harm to the spirit. Oddly, as highlighted by a recent article in the FBI’s Law Enforcement Magazine, mental health professionals are the go-to people to address moral injury. I don’t believe that’s the best choice. Properly trained chaplains and clergy should be the go-to professionals. They are trained to give counsel concerning spiritual issues.
Hence, the reason I wrote Moral Injury in Policing. The book is an easy and short read. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman wrote the foreword and said, “This is the most important book on Moral Injury ever written.” That might be an overstatement, but whom am I to argue?
While I was in Tennessee last month, I presented a seminar to several law enforcement chaplains based on the book. The chaplains gave positive feedback and said the information will be very helpful in their ministry to officers. Moral Injury in Policing is available on Amazon and in bulk order at TheStrongBlueLine.org. Pray that this new resource will help law enforcement officers recover from moral injury.
Pray for your police.