Police chaplain makes it his mission to prevent police suicides

Police suicides a growing concern

WETUMPKA, Ala. (WSFA) - “When he entered the woods, he started shooting at me. I can hear the bullet when it went by my head," said veteran lawman Sgt. Darrell Spraggins with Wetumpka police. He’ll never forget the sound.

So close yet so far. The bullet missed his head by mere inches. Talk about stress! It’s all par for the course for law enforcement across the country. And it’s this kind of burden some have difficulty letting go of.

Sgt. Darrell Spraggins with Wetumpka police says he’ll never forget the sound.
Sgt. Darrell Spraggins with Wetumpka police says he’ll never forget the sound.

“When you walk out that door, you never know if you’ll come back," said Spraggins.

That’s where Wetumpka Police Department Chaplain John Gallups comes in.

Wetumpka Police Department Chaplain John Gallups
Wetumpka Police Department Chaplain John Gallups (Source: WSFA 12 News)

“Stuck my police-issued weapon to my head and was going to blow my brains out," Gallups graphically recalled thinking back to a bad time in his life many years ago. He says personally knew of five police officer friends who committed suicide during the course of his long career.

Gallups spent years as a police officer, the last 10 as chaplain with Wetumpka police. He developed the 'One-to-One Foundation’ in 2018 and blended in some ideas from other sources on how best to reach that officer who is vulnerable.

“It’s that cumulative stress we have to understand," he said.

The crux of Gallups’ outreach is what he calls the ‘Daily three.’ Touch base, take the hill, and take care. In other words, Gallups encourages officers to touch base everyday with friends, family and a belief system, take the hill by confronting life, and take care of yourself.

(Source: WSFA 12 News)

He credits this message to Carlton Fisher who authored the book ‘Where Warriors Walk.’

“At least know where your hurdles are and your pitfalls," he said.

So far in 2019, some 90 police officers across the nation have taken their own lives. That is far more than the 21 who’ve died in the line of duty.

No one can recall a suicide within the ranks of Wetumpka police, but it’s always good to be prepared.

“Great asset to the city," Spraggins stated. He knows there is no bulletproof formula to protect him from the arrows of police work. But when he faces a dark and dangerous moment, he relies on his faith and the man who’s been there before.

If you’re in law enforcement and you need someone to talk to, there’s a crisis hotline number you should know about. It’s 833-219-2461.

Copyright 2019 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.