“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14 ESV)
Exercitium (physicae, mentalia, Spirituales) – the latin here is ‘exercise.’ But, this is taking care of yourself as a whole person – physically, mentally, and spiritually. It is a lifestyle choice. Many bureaucrats don’t have a problem with extensive retirement packages for cops. Some really smart actuaries (bean counters) crunched the numbers and found that many cops drop dead within five years of retirement.
Exercise is the best known way to live a long life after 20, 25, or 30 years of cop life. Shift work, bad food, and emotional baggage will put you on the fast-track to the bone yard, especially if you don’t carve out time for exercise.
This can be a safety issue as well. At least anecdotally it is known that the ‘bad guys’ who are willing to fight the police have (even if momentarily) second thoughts when the officer in front of him appears fit and his uniform is clean, dry, and serviceable.
But, this is a ‘whole person’ approach. “Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever.” (1 Timothy 4:8 MSG)
St. Paul mentions physical exercise in a positive light while encouraging us that investing in our spiritual growth has both temporal and eternal benefits. The implication is that physical exercise and discipline over our physical bodies is good, but that it only has temporal benefits. We should practice spiritual discipline (e.g. oratio (praying), tentatio (trials through experience), meditatio (contemplation & reflection) as well, as the benefits of spiritual health are great.
As the saying goes, “Without courage compassion wavers.”
“We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” (Colossians 1:9 ESV)
Disciplina et Educatio – Training and Education – Education comes in many ways. Here the encouragement is not only to dive into every job you get to try on your department, but that you pursue wisdom. “Just the facts, ma’am” is not what we’re talking about.
Still, this does include formal education. There are too many ways to receive a formal education these days for cops not to have one. Even if you have no desire to be promoted in rank, taking on the pursuit of wisdom – increasing you knowledge, skills, and abilities - will make you a better cop.
Moreover, do you have a post law enforcement career plan? Again, not just golf and fishing (not that there’s anything wrong with those) but what might your second vocation be? For me, I had no idea that mission and ministry as a pastor and chaplain were in my future. But, early on, as I worked in our Child and Vulnerable Adult Abuse Unit, I returned to school to finish my undergraduate degree with an eye on helping victims of crime and that winding road ended up where I am now.
Education not only helps you figure out what might be ahead, but also prepares you for it. The writer of Proverbs shares, “Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” (Proverbs 24:14 ESV)
So, for rookies, and the salty veterans that never got the memo: there is no shortage of instructors for safe traffic stops. But pursuing wisdom – life outside work, exercise, and education – will make you a well-rounded, more effective cop.
Finally, rest in the knowledge that your vocation is just that, a ‘calling’ of which the Ultimate Peace Officer, Jesus the Christ said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9 ESV)
Stay Safe and Watch your Six!
Rev. Frank C. Ruffatto