Officers learn to prepare spiritually, mentally for shootouts

Whitney Downard / The Meridian Star

Retired officer and pastor Tim Rupp speaks to officers from across Mississippi on the importance of spiritually and ethically preparing for gunfights on Wednesday. 

More than 100 Mississippi law enforcement officers filled the meeting space of Meridian Community College's Riley Workforce Development Center Wednesday to learn about a critical component of their profession: surviving a gunfight. 

Tim Rupp, a retired police officer and pastor, lectured officers on the importance of emotionally preparing to survive a gunfight, rather than focusing solely on the physical survival.

"The idea is for them to win – not just survive – and win ethically, mentally and tactically," Rupp said. "Nobody talks about the ethical or spiritual side and we're spiritual creatures."

Rupp said that any officer looking to emotionally survive a gunfight would need to prepare and used his religious background to work through the ethical implications of killing another person.

"They need to prepare in advance so when they're under that pressure and making a split-second decision, they'll be more confident in their choices," Rupp said. "Judeo-Christian (values) and Western Culture gives an officer the authority to use deadly force if necessary."

Rupp showed officers videos of shootings from around the country, focusing on the right and wrong moves officers made in their response. 

When officers watched a man fumbling to reload his weapon, Rupp pointed out that most people trained to reload their firearms while standing, not while crouching or sitting.

"How many times do you sit while doing a reload? While being shot at?" Rupp told the crowd. "Training and preparation are why Steph Curry (a professional basketball player) can take those fourth quarter shots and make them on a regular basis."

Rupp described four levels of readiness, ranging from non-observant civilians to hyperventilating officers. He advised officers to remain in control of their emotions but alert to anything suspicious.

"Studying body language helps identify people who don't fit and thus warrant further attention," Rupp said. 

Following a shooting, officers may feel remorse or exhilaration, both feelings that Rupp said shouldn't concern officers. 

"The reason they feel good is because someone tried to kill them and didn't... those feelings are normal. They're not feeling good because they killed someone but they feel good because they survived," Rupp said. "Every officer (in that situation) will have to come to a point where they rationalize and accept what they did – that they responded how they were trained to respond."

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