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The Nature of the ‘Business’
In a sense, many who have done and do law enforcement do not wake up excited that this is their week of ‘in-service training.’ Peace Officers, generally speaking, are ‘doers.’ “Let’s not fool around with theoretical situations and Monday morning quarterbacking – let’s get to the business of catching the bad guys.”
Yet, we also know that the work of the Peace Officer is by its very nature dangerous. At the core of being a Peace Officer is the understanding that as you strap on that gun and pin on that badge you expose yourself to situations that are hazardous and often life threatening. Good and realistic training can often mean the difference between success and failure – between life and death.
Revert to Your Training
As I shared in my last article, I vividly recall that during my academy training and later in-service training, there was an understanding that when the ‘stuff hits the fan,’ you would ‘revert to your training.’ Thus, training became not just a box to get checked, but important preparation – it changed you not only physically, but it changed your mindset too. Even as a retired officer, I still scan the parking lot as I enter the shopping center or restaurant; I still seek out the ‘gun-slinger’ seat in the restaurant; I still scrutinize the patrons as I go to my seat. It’s as the saying goes, “I’m a trained paranoid.”
The kind of training which a Peace Officer needs and attends shows that police work is certainly not for everyone. It is not a matter of merely surviving the academy and ‘getting through’ your field-training period. Instead it is about appropriating the skills, knowledge, and techniques that need to become second- nature to the peace officer – to allow him to successfully protect himself, his colleagues, and the public which he serves.
Police and Chaplain Training
Frankly, as I have entered into the world of Law Enforcement Chaplaincy, I have found that – in terms of training and comportment – the Chaplain and the Peace Officer do have some similarities. Moving from officer to chaplain, I have switched one fish bowl for another – public scrutiny is still just that: hyper-analysis of what I’m doing. Untrained people still think they know how to do my job and still have no compunction against sharing with me just what their thoughts are on it.
In the midst of that I have discovered that the regular, generic, flavorless oatmeal approach to chaplaincy (that many in our pc culture aspire to attain) is just not good enough for the men and women who risk their lives in this venerable and noble vocation. When the ‘stuff hits the fan,’ I’m not there to pat the officer on the back and give the insipid platitude – “it’ll be okay.” This especially, when the officer knows it isn’t going to just “be okay.” And yet, the chaplain does need to shine light in those dark places that the people – the officers – he serves can have smoothed out (at least a little bit) the jaded edges that come with the territory of working in law enforcement.
Theological Rubber Hitting the Road of Law Enforcement Reality
And so, as the subtitle above suggests, the ‘rubber needs to hit the road.’ When I was a detective I often thought of the phrase, “The Truth is real and it will prevail.” I wanted to solve cases because I wanted the truth to come to the fore. I had no desire to close a case for the sake of closing it. I’d rather it remain open than have the wrong person accused. I also saw this as opportunity to clear those wrongly accused.
As I entered the Seminary, that phrase still rung true for me. I want to see the Truth brought to bear on people’s lives – and especially peace officers who see the ‘truth’ of the depravity of mankind. The Ultimate Peace Officer, Jesus said: “You are truly My student if you remain faithful to My training. And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
Thus, I want to commend to the officers, chaplains, pastors, and lay people who read this the Police and Chaplain Training (PACT) put on by Peace Officer Ministries. This training is about appropriating the skills, knowledge, and techniques that need to become second- nature to the chaplain – to allow him to successfully protect himself, his colleagues, and the peace officers whom he serves; to bring the Truth that sets us free to bear.
This is also a chance for peace officers to see how their noble calling is one of spiritual warfare of which the physical warfare in which they partake makes it visible. The instructors are past and present law enforcement officers, chaplains, and they cover a wide range of subjects from Understanding Law Enforcement as a Culture to Officer Spiritual Survival to practical sections on Crime Scene & Investigations Awareness Training for Chaplains and Understanding Your Communication Style. And frankly, there is so much more in-between to instill within the trainee the skills necessary to handle many sticky situations and be back-up for officers as they work to end every shift alive and well.
By completing this training, the chaplain (and the peace officer seeking to serve his colleagues) will have been supplied with the knowledge and skills to ‘serve those who protect and serve us.’ The call is to put on your theological boots so that your theological rubber will hit the road of the real-life, no-holds-barred, blood and guts, joys and sorrows of law enforcement.
There is still time to register and some scholarship help is available as well. Mark your calendars for May 21-25, 2012 – St. Louis, Missouri – Concordia Seminary. A downloadable brochure is available at www.peaceofficerministries.org.
Watch your six, and Stay Safe!
About The Author
Rev. Frank C. Ruffatto is a Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS) pastor (Point of Grace Lutheran, Cornelius, NC) and retired police detective (Prince George’s County, Md. PD) He is also the Executive Director and Chaplain for Peace Officer Ministries, Inc. (POM) a 501(c)3 non-profit, international law enforcement chaplaincy ministry whose mission is to “Serve Those Who Protect and Serve Us.”
Chaplain Ruffatto has an A.A. in Liberal Arts from St Leo College, a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies (Behavioral Science/Theology) from Concordia College, Bronxville, NY and a M.Div. from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.
Chaplain Ruffatto has performed “boots on the ground” ministry for P.O.M. in Nicaragua, Alabama, and assisted with the LCMS relief efforts in American Samoa. Locally, with Point of Grace, he has worked with the Cornelius Police Department’s Christmas-adopt-a-family projects, National Night Out events, and other ad hoc activities. Additionally, his combination of police/ministry education and experience provides a practical application to the POM police and chaplaincy training at Concordia Seminary.