Wellness and Spirituality: Beyond Survival Practices for Wounded Warriors

By Feemster, Samuel L. | The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, May 2009 | Go to article overview

Wellness and Spirituality: Beyond Survival Practices for Wounded Warriors


Feemster, Samuel L., The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin


Policing can become lethal and toxic for unprepared law enforcement officers dedicated to protecting and serving their communities. Empirical data have suggested that exposure to crime can harm the brain, as well as relationships that matter most to officers. Thus, to combat the diabolical schemes and toxic complexities of criminal evil (e.g., violence, terrorism, and gangs) during the 21st century, officers must constantly revitalize and safeguard their inner spirituality. In law enforcement, spirituality is about proactively nurturing the souls and performance of all officers. Along with the best wellness practices that support physical abilities, spirituality focuses on the inward forces that sustain the external instruction officers receive at police academies, during on-the-job probationary periods, and while attending in-service courses throughout their vocational lives. In the same vein, recent studies have indicated that tactical and legal training are not sufficient for preparing law enforcement officers when their spirituality is neglected or wounded. (2)

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Yet, when some officers hear the term spirituality, they unfortunately dismiss it in superficial ways. Spirituality in policing is not about adopting religious dogmas or creeds unless officers choose to embrace these worldviews. Moreover, glib or authoritarian approaches to religious indoctrination can actually kill or suppress authentic spirituality.

These concerns emerged as leaders from the law enforcement, academic, and faith communities throughout the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom met for the first annual Beyond Survival: Wellness Practices for Wounded Warriors conference in June 2008. Representatives came from California, Texas, New Mexico, New York, Minnesota, and other jurisdictions. Members from the U.S. military, the Army National Guard, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police also Participated. Sponsored by the Behavioral Science Unit at the FBI Academy, the conference brought these individuals together to analyze how spirituality enhances law enforcement practice. Participants delivered more than 27 detailed presentations about the impact of spirituality in law enforcement. The culmination of the conference occurred as attendees tackled a set of pertinent questions.

* Are spirituality and religion the same?

* Where is the intersection between the police and the faith community?

* What is a wellness curriculum for policing, as well as for the faith community?

* What other issues and questions should be addressed in seeking wellness?

CONFERENCE FINDINGS

Collectively, attendees concluded that spirituality in law enforcement constitutes a vital key to wellness practices for wounded warriors. Law enforcement officers everywhere are wounded and in need of protection from intentional, repeated, long-term exposures to evil and its toxins. Although armed and vigilant for the protection of the innocent and defenseless, as well as their fellow officers and themselves, these brave guardians sustain wounds through the persistent assault of human predators.

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As an invisible weapon, spirituality does not weaken the best aspects of policing; rather, it greatly accentuates them. Spirituality matters to effective practice and performance in seven primary ways.

1) Spirituality nourishes the inner being of officers, inoculating, protecting, and refreshing them from dangerous levels of multiple stressors.

2) Spirituality unleashes vitality by reengaging officers in the spirit of the law.

3) Spirituality heals the deepest, most invisible trauma of wounded warriors.

4) Spirituality provides an antidote for the toxicity of evil, thereby promoting wellness beyond survival.

5) Spirituality nurtures longevity in law enforcement.

6) Spirituality enhances intuitive policing, emotional intelligence, and stress management. …

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