Category Archives: PTSD

Chaplain: Murder on Oak Ridge Dr.

Normally I do not re-post articles, but I send this out to all my LEO and fire friends. Know when to ask for help and ASK. This article comes from, so it is written for the police perspective. But trauma can happen to any of us. When it does, do you know what to do or who to talk to?

Chaplain: Murder on Oak Ridge Dr.
by Fr. John Harth
Updated: March 25, 2011

She was elderly and lived alone. There were no signs of forced entry; it is presumed that she knew her killer.

The arriving officer called in detectives. As the hour grew later, he asked if the Lieutenant was going to call a chaplain. The “ell tee” allowed as how there was no need, as no family was local. The officer replied, “What about me?”

This has been a rare situation over 23 years of chaplaincy: an on-scene officer requesting a chaplain through someone else. Some consider asking for help in any form a sign of weakness. Time has shown that those who suppress their feelings eventually have them come back to haunt them. It is not unusual for another incident to trigger thoughts of a scene or case from days gone by that the individual thought long gone, but which has lingered in their memory.

Larger departments and agencies have come around to offering employee assistance programs, some of which offer peer support, others assisting in getting the counseling some folks need to work through critical incidents. Smaller towns may benefit from considering ways to less officially offer their personnel a listening ear.

The officer I mentioned earlier got word to me the next day. We visited the scene. He described what happened and what was going through his mind. He didn’t need counseling; he just wanted someone to talk with. His career wasn’t damaged, he made promotions; he moved up the ladder. He knew when to ask for help.

Many of us try to go it alone. We think we can manage our lives on our own, that we don’t need anyone else, that others will think less of us if we seek assistance with our troubles. More often than not, sometime, some way, burying stressors comes back to bite us when, and in places, we don’t want to be bit.

When citizens need help, they call a cop. When cops need help, they can call a chaplain. Yours wouldn’t mind hearing from you.

My thoughts on the war declared against Police Officers

As I write this, there have been 14 officers slain in the line of duty, 9 from gunfire (plus 1 accidental). Once Officer David Moore is “official”, it becomes 15/10. In the last 24 hours, 11 police officers have been shot at (that we know of, likely numerous others). Deputies, officers, campus police, federal agents. What they all hold in common is “the thin blue line”.

Their job is ” not just protecting and serving. It’s preserving that buffer that exists in the space between what you think the world is, and what the world really is.” (I quoted that here) I’ve heard that death “is just part of their job” when it was remarked about another officer who GAVE their lives (they did not lose it, they intentionally gave it to protect their citizens). No one says that to tellers, convenient store clerks, or soldiers when they die. So why with officers? Is it because we do not care? Is it because we are so angry with the speeding ticket that we don’t feel we deserved that we can callously ignore the death of an officer? I really want to think I live in a better world. But it’s gradually proving me faulty to hope in humanity’s decency.

I’ve needed cops before. When I had a car stolen in 1996 in Moraine, they came out. When I panicked and could not remember my alarm code fast enough in Dayton in 2000, they came out then too. When my grandmother’s house was broken into all those years ago, the KSP came out. And the list goes on. I hope I never need them again. But they are there when life goes bad. And they are there for us all. They are the ones who have to inform you that a loved one was in an accident…and didn’t make it. They are the ones who have to investigate why someone hit a tree at 70 MPH and try to find the missing body parts. They are the ones who have to go to the crime scene and figure out that the drive did not see the pedestrian because they were going too fast because they were 5 minutes late. They are the ones who start CPR until the paramedics arrive (and I have SEEN that happen). They are the ones who have to calmly explain your ticket and explain that 52 in a 35 is speeding no matter how good the excuse, maybe after just getting shot at. They try to cram lunch/dinner and typing up endless reports and redundant paperwork into a 30 minute lunch (which they can NOT take if it is busy). They are the ones who are suffering with PTSD (its estimated that 15-20%) and feel it every time the computer sends them on a call. And they are the ones who have the horror they’ve seen haunt them in their dreams.

I don’t say this to make you feel sorry for them. As Officer Mark Bruns told me once, “Don’t feel sorry for us. We chose this life”. I tell you this to make you FEEL.

I’m setting my profile picture to the thin blue line. Not because I am a cop. I do it to honor the dead, as well as the living.

Also, for those of you who are Christians and believe in the power of prayer, here are some prayer points I posted last spring.