The 20-something guy he and his German Shepard were after had been in state prison, serving three life sentences mostly for armed robbery. But on this day, the convict was in the Los Angeles County jail system awaiting trial on another crime. Feigning being sick in his courthouse cell, he overpowered a female deputy sheriff, managed to get out the back door armed and escaped in a truck.The next morning, asleep in the truck outside his ex-girlfriend’s house in Mount Washington, the escapee was approached by a curious security guard. Again, he overpowered him but a neighbor called 911, reporting an officer was being held hostage. Although he wasn’t a police officer, this warranted a “code three,” with LAPD patrol cars responding from all directions. And the guy took off running.The residential area with its steep hills was a big parameter, requiring four dogs and their handlers to search underneath the jacked-up homes. When his dog had trouble “clearing” a house, Manning sent him back in to check out a small crawl space and followed on his hands and knees.“So I kind of leaned in with my flashlight and my gun, and the guy was right there,” he recalls. “I mean, we were eye to eye from five feet, and he was armed, of course. So there was a shooting and he was killed. He did not shoot at all. He had the .357 revolver right by his side. It was right next to him, and his hand went out towards the gun, and that’s when I fired.”After the incident, he can also remember seeing a psychologist — as all LAPD officers involved in a shooting are mandated to do — and how taken the young woman was at his calm demeanor. When she asked, “How did you sleep after the incident?” and he answered, “Oh, better than ever,” she actually dropped her pencil.Then he proceeded to explain: “I said, ‘Well, here’s the deal. I’m in a high-risk unit and I’m confronted with deadly force situations frequently, and I don’t shoot. Luckily, you’re able to get the guy to drop his weapon. There’s an extra moment or something.’“I said, ‘If there’s anything, the second guessing went on for me after, when I was driving home with my dog and thinking about the what-ifs? Did I risk my backup unit? Did I risk my dog? Did I risk myself? Could I not be going home to my family right now? But at the moment I pulled that trigger, all those questions were answered.”“I think the downside of it is when an officer thinks to himself ‘I killed a guy’ as opposed to ‘I took a life in the line of duty.’ It’s very different, but it’s subtle. It’s subliminal. It’s not conscious, but I think that wears on officers.”— Father Michael McCullough, LAPD chaplain“She just looked at me and she goes, ‘That’s brilliant.’“And I said, ‘Well, yeah. Because all those questions were answered and they all had to be answered in a millisecond. ’Cause I had to make a decision and it was the proper decision.’”Mooring stresses, however, that a shooting — especially one that involves deadly force — always takes a long-term toll on a police officer’s psyche.“It just doesn’t go away,” he reports. “I mean, you think about that the rest of your life. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a devastating thing or a bad thing. But it’s something that the humanness in us will go over and over and over again. So while the fact that all the questions were answered by the time you pulled the trigger, it doesn’t make it easier.”After a while, he adds, “Now having said that, I am Catholic and I believe God sees everything and God will judge us some day. So there’s a lot of prayers to St. Michael. [St. Michael the Archangel is the patron of police officers.] So I think your faith does help. Sure.”Preventing PTSDLAPD psychologist Stephanie Barone McKenny says police officers like Mark Mooring usually have a line in their mind that, “OK, if this suspect crosses this line — like if a gun starts to come up or ‘if he points it in my direction’ or whatever the litmus test is for that officer — then that’s when they act. And usually the officer is hoping that the individual does not cross that line.”So the first thing McKenny does in a critical incident debriefing involving an officer-involved shooting is to have the officer describe in detail, from start to finish, what happened. Then if it’s a justifiable shooting, which she says is most often the case, she tries to clarify that in the officer’s mind. She calls it “connecting the dots” or “putting the pieces of the puzzle together” to help the officer see that the shooting was in the line of duty.But occasionally, when she doesn’t “get something” in the first-person account — especially if some doubts have already been raised by superior officers or investigators — she’ll openly probe that, too.How cops react to a shooting depends on a number of variables, according to McKenny, who has worked in LAPD’s Behavioral Science Services since January 2004 and before that as a police psychologist for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The first factor is, of course, the officer’s basic personality. Is he or she an introspective individual who doesn’t like to talk about himself or herself? Also, do they tend to isolate themselves or have poor coping skills like drinking?She says even their lifestyles can come into play. Do they exercise and work out regularly? Are they eating right or overloading on sugary foods? And then there’s the whole matter of how religious officers are and do they believe in a higher power.“If someone is not a religious person, if someone does not have those religious coping strategies — or even just something as simple as silent meditation or prayer or contemplation — then I think that becomes harder on the person,” she points out. “Part of what makes it hard is when we can’t make sense of this nonsensical thing that happened. And if I am a person of faith, I might be more in the habit of making sense out of very stressful big life events.”Other factors about how police officers react include, is it their first on-the-job shooting, and does the confrontation result in the death of a person being pursued. McKenny often sees officers who are “completely OK” with their first shooting because they followed LAPD guidelines for using their weapon. In almost all of these cases, they firmly believe they were defending their life or their partner’s life, or the safety of the surrounding community.When the incident results in a fatality, all the above variables can come into play. The psychologist points out it’s especially important if this isn’t the officer’s first deadly force encounter (did the officer really resolve prior shootings?).“But some police officers have a hard time, whether it’s their first time or whether the shooting actually results in a death,” she notes. “Sometimes it is because of religious reasons. Sometimes it’s something as very simple as feeling compassion for the individual and thinking, ‘I feel sorrowful that I had to take this other person’s life.’“And in those cases when an officer is experiencing stress symptoms from a shooting or critical incident, it’s not considered abnormal or unusual. That reaction, in fact, would actually be expected,” she explains. “So part of what I do is, I normalize that and I validate that. And that’s actually part of the healing process.”McKenny also provides information about what forms stress can take in a particular individual. This includes physical symptoms, from upset stomachs to headaches, to emotional signs like depression and panic attacks.Then there are cognitive aberrations such as having difficulty concentrating to nightmares. And finally there are behavioral issues like withdrawing from social encounters or being overly aggressive. She says the whole point of her one-on-one, quick intervention is to prevent these symptoms from developing into full-blown Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which the American Psychiatric Association defines as occurring when symptoms last longer than 30 days.   “And if somebody is diagnosed with PTSD, whether it’s a military officer or a police officer, they’re more vulnerable, they’re more susceptible to long-term chronic mental illness,” she points out. “So it’s more easy for them to develop things like panic attacks on top of the PTSD and clinical depression and possibly agoraphobia, where they might not even want to come out of their house anymore.“So it becomes a slippery slope that we really want to prevent from even starting. And we will do everything in our power then to prevent PTSD happening before the 30-day mark. And I think that’s where a lot of our value can come from — the prevention of illness.“But we don’t want them to deteriorate in any way, shape or form,” she stresses. “We want to keep them as healthy and strong as we can — mentally, physically, spiritually. It’s a holistic model of health. That’s why we work closely with chaplains on the critical incident response team, which actually goes out to crime scenes, because spiritually we want them to be strong as well.”Not a ‘killing’Ordained in 1973, Father Michael McCullough became a chaplain to the Los Angeles Police Department in 1977. After he was the first priest to graduate from the Los Angeles Police Reserve Academy, he was soon tagged to be part of the initial LAPD Crisis Response Team. From 1992 to 2005 he had 36 major “call outs,” involving mostly shootings and disasters.His ministry has also included stints with the Culver City and Oxnard police departments. And from the early 1990s to 2005, he worked in addition with the FBI, where he says he received some of the best training as a police chaplain from the top police psychologists in the nation.During his police work, the 64-year-old priest has buried more than 120 police officers, including 13 suicides. The reasons for the self-inflicted fatalities aren’t really known, of course, but he strongly suspects that at least some had to do with officer-involved fatal shootings and how those incidents were offhandedly characterized not only by the popular media but also cops themselves.“I always encourage us in law enforcement to not use the term ‘killing,’” Father McCullough says, sitting in a corner leather chair inside the Transfiguration Parish rectory where he lives. “I would say that biblically it would be justifiable homicide. If someone is trying to take your life or take the life of another person and you intervene, you have a right to do that by Judeo-Christian ethics. Now if you have a handcuffed suspect and you execute him, that’s murder. But that’s not what we’re talking about.“Part of what makes it hard is when we can’t make sense of this nonsensical thing that happened. And if I am a person of faith, I might be more in the habit of making sense out of very stressful big life events.”— Stephanie Barone McKenny, LAPD psychologist“And I challenge officers not to fall into the hands that the media sets for us. I think the downside of it is when an officer thinks to himself ‘I killed a guy’ as opposed to ‘I took a life in the line of duty.’ It’s very different, but it’s subtle. It’s subliminal. It’s not conscious, but I think that wears on officers.” Then he gives an example from an early experience as a police chaplain. The police captain sought his counsel because he hadn’t been able to sleep for three months. Not since his day off when he was in a bank with his daughter and a teenager came in brandishing a gun, yelling to the tellers to hand over their money. The cop told the priest, “I just went into automatic,” pulling out his own off-duty weapon and yelling “Freeze, police.”When the robber pivoted and fired at him, the captain fired one shot, killing him. Later he found out the criminal was only 16.“I killed a kid,” he lamented to Father McCullough.The priest returned, “Wait a minute. How many people were in the bank and who was trained to do what you did?” The cop admitted there wasn’t even a bank guard present.“So you did what you were trained to do. You stopped deadly force. You may have saved the lives of the tellers and customers, including your daughter and your own life. You didn’t kill anybody. You were doing what society has authorized you to do — to protect the rest of us.”Looking puzzled at first, then letting out a long sigh, the captain mused, “I never thought of that. You know, it didn’t occur to me that I was the only one there who could do anything about it.”His point made, the chaplain, who received the prestigious “Jack Webb Award” from the LAPD in 2009, proceeds to ponder about what taking a life — even in the line of duty — can do to a cop’s soul.“Well, I think the most obvious one is a real problem with God,” he says. “You know, how can God allow this kind of thing to happen: ‘Me shooting a person or my partner being shot in friendly fire by me?’ And the way I see it, it’s going right to that whole process of grieving that [Elizabeth] Kubler-Ross talked about, the states of grief.“Denial is often the first stage. And if you can’t get past the denial — and a lot of times it’s denying the incident even happened — you’re going to be stuck. And at some point anger and rage is the next phase. Guilt, of course, is also a big, big thing.”Father McCullough doesn’t know if it’s harder for police officers who don’t believe in God to handle a shooting that results in a death. But he can’t imagine trying to do the work of a police officer without some bedrock faith. He brings up the old saw that there are no atheists in a foxhole.“You don’t meet very darn many officers who won’t have a lot of spirituality,” he reports. “They may not have a lot of religion, but they have a lot of spirituality. They believe and they pray, but they do it in their own ways. They may not go to formal worship on Sunday, but they know that they’re in the hands of a higher power.”As a member of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Crisis Response Team for 13 years, the priest has also seen firsthand what a shooting debriefing can accomplish, especially if it’s done within 24 hours of the critical incident. Like LAPD psychologist Stephanie Barone McKenny, he believes that getting the officer to talk about it is key to arriving at inner peace.“I find it’s a lot like the sacrament of penance,” the priest points out. “It’s the greatest healing that I’ve seen outside of the sacrament. And I would say it’s comparable, because it is so life-changing if they can express it and get it out. To me that’s the crucial point. It’s being able to say what’s going on inside. Because the healing comes naturally once you can express it.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0611/copkill/{/gallery}