In Romans 13, God provides a commission police officers. Psalm 82:3-4 tells us to, “Defend the poor and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy; free them from the hand of the wicked”
This goes hand-in-hand of the police motto “To Protect and Serve”. After 30 years, I can tell you that a lot of time is involved in dealing with a very diverse society which includes the homeless and panhandlers, who have a variety of problems. Added to this factor are mental health issues, alcoholism, age, and veterans with transitional problems and PTSD.
Many departments are now involved in providing their patrol officers with training in “mental health first aid” and Crisis Intervention Training (CIT). Such training deals with the characteristics of the situation – after all our responses are to a crisis – usually one of uncertainty and one defined by one’s perception and response. Our intervention should be one of assistance and help for the individual as opposed to judgment.
One of the things I touch on when teaching a rookie academy regarding this type of situation is to always maintain concern and respect for the individual. Too often we judge what we see: the homeless person who literally stinks from poor hygiene, urine, and feces, and lack of bathing. All we want is to get back to doing “real” police work and get this person off our beat.
This also holds true for the prostitutes and those with an alternative lifestyle. Usually at this point we forget the “protect and serve” thing. We check their history and send them on their way. We forget about having any type of compassion and that this is a human being we are dealing with.
Instead of just sending some on his or her way, how about asking about their story? Maybe there is something more you can do to help them. There are thousands of cops with good hearts and morals who go above and beyond to help. Their stories rarely make the news.
It doesn’t take a Christian cop to do good deeds. However, Christian cops should be more sensitive to the needs of those they encounter. A Christian cop, because of his or her relationship with Jesus can and should do what others cannot or will not do. I am reminded of the young NYPD officer who encountered a homeless man with no shoes and bought him some. I don’t know if that officer was a Christian or not, but it was the humanitarian act that mattered.
When you ask about their story, you need to listen. You may be surprised at what you are told. Not all are in the streets because they have alcohol or drug problems, psychotic or mental problems. Many are there for many other reasons God may have placed you in front of them for a reason.
In Jeremiah 29, we find the children of Israel in bondage. They despised it. They hated where they were. They wept and were hopeless. This picture is not so different than our present day situations mentioned above. They were in a place of great despair but God speaks to them in verse 11, “I know right where you are and this isn’t the end. I have plans for your life and they are good plans.” Those we encounter in crisis situations need to hear this type of encouragement. It may take just that one act of concern, compassion, kindness that may turn that person’s life around.
Some people argue that Christians should not be police officers. Christians MUST serve in law enforcement to bring change in the community. When did you last pray for the citizens you serve? Try it. I promise it will change your attitude toward those you have an opportunity to help.
I refer you to Acts 10:22-27, with special attention to verses 24-26, “As Peter was coming in, Cornelius was waiting . . . met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, I myself am also a man.” Perhaps we need to remember that we are also human and that Psalm 82:3-4 gives us some valuable advice as a police officer.
Thank you Jonathan Parker, Covered Law Enforcement, for allowing me to take your message and take it one step further to share with others.
Detective Gene Hall retired in 1997 after 30 years of service. Gene has been a police instructor since 1973. He is a Coordinator with the Criminal Justice Institute (Police Academy), Palm Beach State College. Five years ago he was led to start a ministry for LEO’s called “thebibleandtheshield.com”. He speaks to Christian groups about the need for outreach to police officers and their families. This led to guest speaking engagements with Florida Men of Integrity/Iron Sharpens Iron conferences and representing the Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers in South Florida. He is the Florida State Director for the American Police Chaplains Association and affiliated with the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board. In 2013 he became the first volunteer Chaplain with the Palm Springs (FL) Police Department. Contact Gene at: [email protected] or thebibleandtheshield.com.