by Senior Chaplain David Frattere
Director of Ohio State Investigations/ICAC Task Force Commander
In his letter to the Christians in Ephesus, St. Paul writes that they must “Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil” and prepare for a “battle against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens” (6:11). For me, this scripture has served as a constant reminder of the need to guard against the dangers that we law enforcement officers face on a daily basis. Dangers that exist not just on the streets, but in our hearts and our minds, our words and our actions.
If we are diligent about wearing our armor each day with the goal of returning home at the end of our shifts, then ask yourself this: Do you know when it’s safe to loosen and take off your armor?
I don’t know of many officers or detectives who hesitate to don their armor–physically or mentally–to head into battle or to throw themselves into a complex investigation. It is easy to hide behind the job and its demands, stressors, risks, and rewards. But while our armor may be easy to put on, it is much more difficult to remove. Without our armor, we are exposed and vulnerable. It becomes easier for us to hide behind the badge and what it represents then risk exposing who we truly are as human beings.
Loosening your armor starts with you. I’m not asking you to take it all the way off, but at least be open to undoing a strap at times. It was the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. who said “faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Improving your mental health and well-being begins with the realization that you can improve your life by taking that first step. The Ohio ICAC Task Force has been around since 1999. Yet we have only recently begun to seriously focus on the topic of mental wellness and resiliency for our investigators and affiliates. We realized that we needed to take that first step even without the necessary funding or any clear objectives. That realization got us talking to each other, to other ICAC Task Forces, and finally to The Innocent Justice Foundation and to mental health providers. Talking loosened our armor and led us to develop and implement a mental health and wellness policy that is in place today. We have a long way to go, but I firmly believe that we have succeeded in loosening the straps of everyone on this team.
I recently became a Chaplain because I wanted to fill a void that I find evident every day that I go to work. I see the St. Michael medallions, the “Blessed are the Peacemaker” shirts, and the social media posts quoting scripture everywhere I turn. What I don’t see–or hear for that matter–is us talking to each other about our faith. Faith is defined not only as a strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, but also as a complete trust or confidence in someone or something. When we started drafting our task force’s mental health and wellness policy, it was faith that gave us a foundation, made us realize that we needed to be able to think outside the box, and helped us to focus more on the members of the team. It was faith that led us to do what was right and just. You won’t find the words “faith” or “religion” in our policy. What you will find, however, is a policy based on the principles found in what may very well be the world’s first mental health and wellness guide – the Bible.
If you have not done so already, I would encourage you to make faith a daily part of your life. For me, it starts with church each Sunday morning, and continues throughout the week with eucharistic adoration, men’s fellowship, volunteer work, and scripture. I firmly believe that my mental health and my continued resilience as a law enforcement officer is directly related to my faith in Jesus Christ and the belief that all things are possible through His Father. It is that belief that reminds me to loosen my own armor when appropriate, and to search for the hope and joy amidst the difficult work that we are tasked with.
St. Paul implores us toward the end of his letter to “Pray that I may be bold enough in Him to speak as I should” (6:18-20). It’s time to start a larger conversation about what He can do for you, and I pray that you will join me.
David K. Frattare
David Frattare currently serves as the Director of State Investigations and the Statewide Commander for the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. Commander Frattare is a Deputy United States Marshal assigned to the United States Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force and the Cleveland FBI Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force. He is also a Senior Chaplain with the International Fellowship of Chaplains.