Police Psychology | Catholic, Police Officer, and Possibly a “Saint”?

Fr. Joseph D’Angelo, Catholic Priest, Police Chaplain

Witness the unknown story of one such individual who risked his life amidst grave danger to save over five thousand perfect strangers. The following narrative is an inspiring story about keeping faith in the midst of tribulation, even to the point of sacrificing his own life to martyrdom.


Between 1938 and 1944, Giovanni Palatucci, who was in charge of the Italian Government’s Foreigners Office, and later Chief of Police in PalatucciFiume, northern Italy, saved the lives of 5,000 Jews, destined to extermination camps. Palatucci obtained false documents and safe-conducts for individuals persecuted by Nazism. He carried out this endeavor with the help of his uncle, Bishop Giuseppe Maria Palatucci of Campagna. Read the rest of this entry »

Police Psychology | Christmas

by Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP



Site Administrator:  Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP

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My Guardian Angel Testimony

by Deputy Sheriff Michael Lutz

York County Sheriff’s Office, Criminal Response Unit


On June 9th, 2016, my unit was dispatched to assist the York City Police Department in the apprehension of a man with an arrest warrant named James Nickol.  He was wanted for felony escape and had prior burglary charges.   Our team met up with the City Police and developed a plan of action.  However, none of us could have predicted what was going to happen next.  I would soon find myself face to face with an armed gunman, fighting for my life.  It was vicious. It was bloody. It was a close quarters gun battle; as close as it gets.  This is my story as seen through my eyes.

When I reached the end of that narrow breezeway, I was the first to make contact with the individual we were looking for.  He was about three feet away from me, standing on a small wooden deck of the residence.  I immediately gave him commands, in full duty uniform and at gun point, to show me his hands.  I could tell by the look on his face that he was shocked to see me.  I expected him to give up and allow me to handcuff him, but instead, he ignored my commands, and turned away from me.  I held my position and continued to repeatedly shout, “Police! Let me see your hands!”  He kept his back turned to me, bent down, and started doing  something with his hands, but I couldn’t see what that something was.  At this point, my instincts kicked in and something was telling me to move in and grab him, and that’s exactly what I did.  I brought my pistol down to my right hip, stepped up onto the deck, and grabbed ahold of him with my left hand.  My intent was to bring him down, handcuff him, and end the situation peacefully.  Instead, he quickly turned into me, and fired a revolver directly into my face.  My head got rocked from the impact as his bullet struck me through the nose, shattering the bones in my right cheek.  It continued to bore its way through my face, striking my jaw, and finally deflecting out the right side.  Blood started pouring out of my face and both of my ears started ringing loudly.  Though an incredibly hard hit, it didn’t knock me down.  My feet didn’t move, and I came right back into the fight.  I immediately placed my finger into the trigger-well of my pistol, and returned fire, striking him with two simultaneous rounds.  I stopped firing, punched out with my left hand and grabbed his gun in an attempt to disarm him, but he again pulled the trigger.  The bullet struck my left thumb and the force of the blast caused me to lose the grip on his weapon, and my left arm flew back into my chest.  His bullet sheared off the top of my thumb, and now I was bleeding from the face and hand. 

I knew at that moment I had no choice but to put him down to stop his violent actions.  It was fight or flight but flight was not an option.  Bleeding profusely, I fired two more simultaneous rounds again from the hip as he continued to fire at me.  Our gunfire exchange sounded muffled as if we were fighting inside of a tunnel.  I started bringing my gun up, firing two right-handed shots.  I then used every ounce of strength left in me to put my hands together.  I zeroed in, seeing my front sight post and my left thumb which was spewing blood like a geyser.  I was able to get one last round off, striking him.  His eyes widened, he turned, and fell face down onto the deck.  I felt like the fight was finally over.  I started stumbling backwards trying to make my way off the deck while blood continued to pour out of my face.  It felt like a warm shower.  I had lost so much blood that I was too weak to hold onto my pistol anymore, and it slipped out of my hands.  Though dizzy and disoriented, I stayed on my feet, staggering towards the back yard.

I started taking off my gloves to assess my hand injury and that’s when I looked up and saw my partner, Deputy Nate Payne, coming to my aid.  I remember telling him “He got me good bro! He got me good!” I was mumbling my words as it was difficult to speak.  It felt like the entire right side of my face was missing.  Nate grabbed ahold of me and pulled me to safety in the alleyway.  He got me behind the cover of a fence and started applying pressure to my face to stop the bleeding.  I was standing there slumped over, holding myself up by my knees, looking down at the ground, watching my blood pour out onto the pavement.  I was completely soaked from my face down to my boots in my own blood.  I could hear Nate telling me to “get down on the ground,” but I didn’t want to.  If I was going to die, I wanted to die on my feet!  I figured that it would only be a matter of seconds until I’d go out.  I felt certain I was about to die.

Nate had to force me down to the ground.  I heard him call out Deputy Rich Drum, for help.  I felt more pressure against my face as Rich had placed his hand over Nate’s, but the blood still needed somewhere to go.  It started running down the back of my throat.  I began swallowing and spitting it out.  I told Nate “I’m swallowing too much blood, brother I’m swallowing too much blood!”  I started desperately reaching for my phone in my right cargo pants pocket because I wanted to be able to talk to my wife one last time, but it was still plugged into the charger of my patrol car.  That’s when I looked up at Nate and gave him what I thought was going to be my final request before I died.  I asked him to promise me he’d tell my wife and boys that I love them and would always be with them.  Nate responded, “Stay with me Lutz, you’re going to make it, the ambulance is on the way!”  He wouldn’t let me give up, as I started to choke on all the blood I’d been swallowing.

I felt him take my injured and bloodied left hand and place it on his uniform.  He said “Grab onto me and don’t you let go!”  I began to pray.  I was praying to Jesus, preparing myself to meet Him.  I asked that my wife and children would always be watched over and protected, and that my partners would be kept safe from harm.  The next thing I remember was being placed into the back of an ambulance.  Nate never left my side; he was still with me, applying pressure to my face.  The medic had to forcefully remove my hand from the grip I had on Nate so he could start an IV in my arm.  Hearing Nate’s voice, knowing he was there, gave me great comfort as I hung on to life.

The ambulance was moving, but I was getting weaker by the moment.  I continued to pray.  I prayed for the man that I had just exchanged gunfire with.  I prayed that he would be OK, and I prayed for his family.  In and out of consciousness, I don’t remember much after that until the doors of the ambulance swung open and I was being carted into the trauma room at the York Hospital.  They started cutting off my uniform and were preparing me for a CAT scan.  One of the nurses held my right hand.  I looked up at her.  She told me that they were working on saving the other guy.  That’s when I remember first starting to cry as if the whirlwind of my emotions and adrenaline had just collided.  I told her “I didn’t want to have to shoot him, but he gave me no choice.”  While tears rolled down my face, she let go of my hand as I started moving into the machine.

Inside, it felt like an eternity.  I was crying, bleeding, and in pain.  All I could hear was the loud sound of the machine running and the ringing in my ears.

Later, in recovery, a doctor entered the room.  He told me he had been working on Mr. Nickol.  I remember seeing blood on his scrubs.  He took off his gloves, grasped my right hand and told me he was sorry.  He said “We did everything we could, but he didn’t make it.”  I took this news very hard, but thanked him for all he did to try and save him.

The events of that day have been very difficult to process. Every time I think about the gun battle, though everything happened so quickly, I see it all, every detail, replaying over and over again in slow motion.  One moment in particular was especially hard for me to accept for the longest time, when I had that grip on his gun.  I would think to myself, if only my thumb hadn’t been covering his barrel.  I might have been able to disarm him, and the outcome may have been different.  Instead, he fired at me five times, emptying his weapon.  I was somehow able to avoid being struck by three additional rounds.  I wasn’t wearing eye protection, my ballistic sunglasses were up on top of my head, but yet everything but my eyes got peppered with gun powder.  Psalm 91:11 tells us “For He will command his Angels to protect you in all you do.”  God did just that; He sent His Angels to protect me, and I now understand that it was Nickol’s decision to pull the trigger.  There was nothing I could do to stop him.

Some people have told me how lucky I am to have survived such a shot to the face and are amazed that it didn’t knock me off my feet.  But I do not believe in luck.  I am a man of faith as I have been my entire life.  I believe that when he fired that first shot directly into my face, my Guardian Angel rose up a shield and deflected his bullet causing it to take the path that it did.  If it had been just a fraction of an inch one way or the other, it could have killed me instantly.  This was truly a miracle and divine intervention at its finest.  Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  God gave me strength that day.  The strength to stand and not fall!  The strength to fight back and survive!  He protected me, and my partners, Deputies Nate Payne and Rich Drum, saved me.  If it weren’t for their actions to slow the bleeding, I may not be here today.  They are true examples of the meaning “I got your six.”  I will always be indebted to them for this, and they will forever be my brothers.

The York County 911 Dispatchers sent out the call, and law enforcement, medics, and fire fighters answered it.  The medics got me to the hospital as quickly as they could.  Then gifted nurses and doctors at the York Hospital kept me alive and took great care of me.  They all deserve the utmost admiration for the heroic, selfless work that they do.

I found out later the vast police response that took place after the officer down call went out over the radio.  All they knew was that a fellow officer had been shot and came to my aid.  This is true bravery, how law enforcement looks out for each other, and what the thin blue line is all about.  I may never know everyone who responded, but I want them all to know how grateful I am for what they did.

I want to thank my Sheriff, Chiefs and leadership, and all my fellow Deputies for their unwavering support.

The recovery process is long and hasn’t been easy.  The nerve damage in my face continues to heal.  I have seven pieces of bullet shrapnel in my face, each piece encapsulated with scar tissue, five small fragments and two larger ones.  The largest piece is so deeply imbedded between the bone of my sinus cavity and nerve endings in my right eye that surgeons are unable to remove it.  I was told that if attempted, it could cause both loss of vision and loss of strength in the entire right side of my face.  The second largest fragment, however, can be removed and I am set to undergo surgery soon.  The medications for pain management and therapies designed to help me with these discomforts are ongoing as my body continues to heal.  The concussion from the gun blast causes me to suffer from headaches and other neurological complications.  I lost 60% of the hearing in my left ear.  The ringing in my right ear stopped, but my left which was closest to the gun blast continues to ring.  I was told that I will have permanent tinnitus in this ear and have been trying to deal with it the best I can.  Though I suffer these afflictions, I am working hard to retrain my body and mind to accept them for what they are.  All the support from my doctors, family, and friends has been a big help in pushing me onward.

People have asked me if I would still have attempted that warrant not knowing how it was going to happen but knowing I’d be severely injured.  My reply without question is yes as I have always been prepared to put my life on the line to save someone in trouble.  It’s all I’ve known my entire life, protecting and saving people no matter what the cost, and without regard for my own personal safety.  I am comforted in knowing that my actions that day saved innocent civilian lives by stopping a man who had, among other items found at the scene, additional weapons, ammunition, and the intent to kill.  I am glad that it was me who took the bullets that day.  I was able to stop the threat and keep my partners and York City Officers safe from harm.

 My prior military and police training instilled in me what I call the Spartan Mindset.  Modeled after the ancient Spartan warrior, it is best described as never give up, never let anything stop you, and never accept defeat.  This is not something you are born with; it is what you learn by overcoming the most difficult situations in both training and real life.  That first shot I took to the face should have knocked me down, but it didn’t.  That’s the Spartan Mindset.  It’s about courage, self-discipline, teamwork, strength, and perseverance.  You cannot let fear control you.  From my experiences, if you go into a dangerous situation afraid, you are more likely to make a mistake.  You must be confident in everything you do and have a sense of fearlessness about you.  You have to train your mind to channel that fear into positive energy.  Once you’ve learned to do this, you will be prepared to face whatever comes your way.  As a Staff Sergeant in the United States Army, I taught this to my soldiers.  I also taught them that just because you are wounded, it doesn’t mean you’re out of the fight.  You pick up your weapon, and you get back in the fight.  You fight until the battle is won or you die trying, and that’s it.  No retreat.  No surrender.  I hope that they are proud of me for leading by example.

I have searched for reasons to explain why this all happened.  I believe one reason I survived is to be able to share my story as a testament to my faith. I would like you to use what happened to me and for all that I’ve endured, if for nothing else; as a sign of hope.  I am proud to be a living example of how powerful God is and proof of His existence.  If my story isn’t proof enough, then I don’t know what is.  In John 20:29 Jesus says, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; but blessed are those who have not seen me and yet have believed.”  Always remember that in the battle of good versus evil, good will always prevail in the end.

I turned 35 three days before the shooting.  I had a 2 month old son, a 2 year old son, and a loving wife at home that morning.  I thank God every day that I am still here to continue to be a husband and father.

Mothers and fathers, hold your children close.  Hug them, kiss them, and tell them every day how much you love them.  Husbands, tell your wives every day that you love them.  You never know just how short life really is until it’s almost taken away from you.


Site Administrator:  Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP

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Police Psychology:  No More Drama

by Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP

I had pneumonia!  I just got over it I guess, although I hack as I write.  One off my staff caught it on a cruise to Russia, and I woke up with it on Saturday last week, in case you were wondering why there was no communication from me for two weeks.  It kicks your butt.  Makes you think it might be your last cold ever — that you’re gonna die!  And that always puts a new perspective on life.

I remember writing about the “moment of truth” in my book Keeping It Simple. (I’ll send you a free copy on .pdf if your write me.)  I wrote about an imaginary time when you are told you have one month to live.  What do you choose to do with your life?  Dream of all the possessions you never got, or mourn that your life was over, or spend the last few breaths with loved ones and people who have been close to you.  Would you look to complicate your life or simplify your life?

Of course, everyone is supposed to say simplify.  That’s what books do is trap you in the premise of the book.  And it was written in the early 90’s when I was a pup in my late 30’s, so it made sense to write it that way.  But what I didn’t know back then, and it takes a while to realize, is that some people just look to “create drama” in their life, re3gardless of the situation.  And as much as you tell people to simplify, drama is always created by these people.

I have written about them.  I called them “Brain Eaters” and I took the side of how to not let a Brain Eater rent space in your brain.  But I have never addressed the person that always finds a lot of drama in their life.  And there is no better place for drama then the holidays, when you are forced with people who often think they have a say in your life because of the family you were born into.

So, let’s get down to it.  If you wake up and say there is a ton of drama in your life over a long period, what do you take a look at?  I am constantly telling people the first step to simplifying is to get a few empty garbage bags and start tossing things out.  Well, unfortunately it is the same with too much drama.  Reduce the complexity by lowering the amount and type of people you are associated with.  If there is someone that constantly creates drama that can be purged from your life, purge them.  If they can’t be purged, limit the amount of effect they have on you, or essentially make them less important.  That is step one to reduce drama, but sometimes that means backing off from long-time friends or even relationships that are constant drama producers.  You’ll end up better, believe me.

The next step in reducing drama is to reduce the amount of extra organizations that you are playing an active role in.  Just like if your kid was overly stressed you would cut them back a soccer league or two, or a dance troupe, sometimes you have to make a decision to stop being president of the motorcycle club or the South Eastern Georgia Patrolman’s Fund or the professional organization that is creating too much drama in your life.  Often you love the organization but some of the people are just too needy or demanding.  If you find yourself stressed to the max from the drama of a volunteer job, or thinking about it constantly, sometimes you have to leave it.  In my experience, what often starts as a pleasant job has a shelf life and if you are beyond the shelf life, it just might be over.

Finally, turn your focus on your loved ones.  Tell them you will help solve their problems, but they must take the drama out of it.  You will only have to remind them every 90 seconds, but after ten or twelve times it will go to 2 minutes then three and eventually you won’t have to remind them as much.  Focus your attention on helping them.  Most readers of mine tend to be caretakers.  They take care of other people and enjoy it when there is no drama.  Let people know you will help, but you want a drama-free zone.  You see simplifying the drama in your life is really simple, but people mistake simple for easy.  Simplifying means giving up and that is simple, but not always easy.


Site Administrator:  Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP

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De-escalation vs. Use of Force: Are we sending mixed messages

Dr. Philip J. Swift


In 2015, I became involved in a law enforcement reform process that would not only change the way the agency provided services to the community, but would test the resiliency of the agency’s culture. As with most law enforcement reform undertakings, this reform movement came on the heels of a use of force (UOF) incident that resulted in the death of a detainee.  Following this incident community and family members made allegations of excessive force and institutional racism, inferring that excessive force was used because the detainee was African-American. The criminal and administrative investigations into this matter determined that the involved officers had not used excessive force and had not violated agency policy. Read the rest of this entry »