The Truth About The Police

Philadelphia_PoliceBecause the Bible makes some very specific statements about obeying those in authority over us, most Christians are apt to view the police as peacekeepers, just doing their job. But of late, some troubling actions by police around the country have come to light.

Some, to be sure, such as the accusations against the officer in Ferguson, have proved false, whether the general population acknowledges that fact or not. The media has a way of editing video to show one side and to tell the story they want the public to believe.

When the facts come out, the public has already made up their mind. It’s nothing short of mob mentality depicted in old westerns and in books like To Kill A Mockingbird when mobs sought to lynch people they had determined, without an examination of facts, to be guilty of some crime.

With all the fallout from those slanted stories—riots, NYPD officers murdered—and the presence of video recording devices in the hands of many, if not most, bystanders, you’d think police around the country would be especially cautious. But no.

Recently we’ve seen video of two policemen breaking into a business and stealing stock, an officer shooting a man in the back, a group of officers kicking and punching a suspect, a CHP officer repeatedly punching a homeless woman, and a SWAT officer snatching a phone from the hand of an onlooker who was filming an incident, then smashing it on the ground.

Then there was the film of officers lifting Freddie Gray upright and dragging him to the police van. (Anyone who says he was “just fine” when he was put in the van, and critical when taken out, doesn’t know what “just fine” looks like.)

In short, it’s not possible to view these events and think the police are always the good guys. Of course, they never have been uniformly the good guys. There have been corrupt police in league with various criminal elements for decades. And there have been rogue cops who abused their power. The difference is surveillance cameras and bystander videos are exposing this element.

Unfortunately, many people point to the very public and tragic instances that have made the headlines, and they conclude that “the police” are rotten to the core or that they have racial bias. (Where, I wonder, was the rioting in support of the mentally ill when Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill and homeless man, died in 2011 after being beaten by police, who subsequently were found not guilty of charges brought against them?)

Slowly a perception is forming that all these people in a confrontation with the police are innocent, and the police, out of malice, are simply abusing and killing them at will.

Police_officer_in_riot_gearJust last month, a group of people here in LA tried to paint several LAPD officers with that tainted brush when they shot and killed a robbery suspect who struggled with them. The incident was captured on video and clearly an officer repeatedly ordered the man to let go of the gun—a service weapon belonging to one of the policemen attempting to subdue him.

No matter how the “hate cops” crowd tried to stir up protest against the LAPD, the video showed the sequence of events. And no one said this, but one of the officers directly involved was African-American. As the police secured the scene, onlookers shouted at the officers, particularly at the African-American, calling him (along with a string of profane names) a sell out.

Clearly, there are people who want to destabilize our society. They may think it needs to be destabilized in order to change the status quo. Clearly some things do need to change.

We might start with our treatment of the mentally ill. Africa, the man killed on Skid Row in downtown LA, was schizophrenic as was Kelly Thomas, the victim in Anaheim three years ago. We should also address our attitude toward the homeless. As it happens, more and more cities are passing laws that prohibit people from feeding the homeless.

But there’s a more fundamental problem in play. We as a society no longer have a moral foundation. After World War II the moral ground was largely marshmallow—merely the appearance of firmness when in fact it was little more than the “this is how we’ve done it before” tradition. Now we don’t even have marshmallow.

Our relativistic philosophy is bound to play out on the the streets of our cities in the form of more rioting, more police abuse of power, more crime. Why shouldn’t it when “the Man” is making money hand over fist at the expense of the poor? If right and wrong is only what you perceive, then if I perceive unfairness, I have the right to take my pound of flesh, no matter who may suffer as a result.

Above all, the Church must not be silent. We cannot take sides in a war between police and minority communities. We must stand for justice—for police as well as for the people they serve. We cannot condone abuse and we cannot condone lawlessness. We ought not buckle to the laws that put obstacles in front of serving the least and the lost and the hopeless. We need to find a way to do missions here at home, to offer a way of escape from the tyranny of sin by pointing people to Jesus Christ.

And that includes police.

photo credit: Listening and Learning at Tuttle via photopin (license)

photo credit: Different Conversations via photopin (license)

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10 Comments

  1. “We need to find a way to do missions here at home, to offer a way of escape from the tyranny of sin by pointing people to Jesus Christ.”

    Great point Becky. I have made a similar comment on another blog addressing this issue. We, for the most part, simply ignore our own backyards when we send missionaries. Our inner cities have been largely abandoned by the American church.

    I grew up in the inner city and can attest to the truth of what I say. I actually went to a neighborhood church for a couple of my early teen years. Sadly, this local neighborhood church did like every one else was doing, and moved out to the county. Suddenly…nothing.

    For over 30 years I didn’t see the inside of a church building more than 10 times, and have often wondered how things might have been different had some church come to my neighborhood and evangelized.
    I didn’t riot and burn buildings, but fell into my share of city kid stuff. A church could have done so much for all the lost boys…and wasn’t there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Wally. I really think the Church needs to step up here at home. We ought not get entangled in the blame game. People sin, so there will be sinful activities in every community, including the police. We ought not think they are worse than the norm but we ought not think they are better.

      Instead we ought to bring the love of God to bear on all our attitudes and relationships. We ought to preach the gospel to those who need to hear the truth.

      I wonder if anyone has thought to give tracts to the police instead of throwing things at them. I wonder if anyone has thought to give tracts to the demonstrators.

      Praise God He rescued you, Wally. Praise God that He can make of your hard road the good He desires in your life and witness.

      Becky

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nice one with the tracts idea. And God took care of me and never let me slip through the cracks. He will accomplish His will despite our best efforts to thwart it won’t He?

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  2. You know what, Rebecca? I have been waiting for someone on the news, social media wherever to mention about righteousness. And I am glad you shed light on it here.

    Police always have their jobs cut out for them. Yes. However, they are human and therefore prone to err just like criminals and anyone else, and it makes me literally sick when people equate cop=good. Nope. I do not subscribe to that. But I do realize how dangerous their jobs can be on a daily basis.

    Does this give people the right to burn cities and torch businesses and loot?

    No. It does not. That is aggressive, uncalled for behavior. I believe in peaceful protesting and that’s it.

    Also, this isn’t a race thing solely(maybe partly). It is about abuse of power. So if someone is committing evil are we to return evil for evil or overcome evil with good?(Romans 12:21) If someone is dodging the cops or doing something crazy, then the cop should bring him or her to justice. Arrest them, taze them or something- but do not develop a God complex and just start going cowboy over human life.

    Again, who will stand for righteousness?

    Given the history of America(the same place that thought blacks were only 3/5 human ,it is no surprise that we are right back where we started.

    I thank you for pointing out the core problems here in this post, Rebecca.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erica, thank you for your comments. I so appreciate your input.

      Isn’t it sad that our media is so unconcerned with righteousness? They want what’s sensational, what fits in with their view of the world, what will give them the greatest number of viewers. But righteousness? They have no interest in promoting it or in pointing out the part that a lack of righteousness plays in the issues of our day.

      Thank God that He is greater. I really think this is an opportunity for we His Church to show the world that in Christ there is no “Greek or Jew”—no racial divide, no thin Blue Line. We are brothers and sisters in Christ and we should be caring for God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness rather than taking sides in our culture wars of various types. Our hope is not in a better America. Though we should do our part as citizens of this country, we should not put our hope in reforms of the police or the healing of racial problems. Our hope is an eternal one and it involves the fellowship of believers from every tribe and language and nation, all worshiping our One Lord and King.

      Becky

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  3. A nice, sensible breakdown. On my twitter feed, the howling mob mentality has been in full force- unfortunately stirred up by some of my favourite authors.

    In one case, a level-headed individual said something like: “They haven’t even been tried yet. After all, even cops are innocent until proven guilty.”
    To which one of my favourite authors replied something like: “Even if they’re not guilty of anything else, they’re guilty of being cops.”

    I was kinda stunned. I never thought I’d hear anything on par with “Death to the aristos!”
    In the French Revolution, Aristocrats were being beheaded simply because they were born to a higher class. It seems that in America today, you can murder a policeman just for the ‘crime’ of being a cop. And, as far as the media is concerned, both get away with it, and be lauded for it.

    I’m well aware that there are dishonest, murderous, racist cops out there. They are, and should be, under investigation. And when proven guilty, they should be imprisoned.

    That doesn’t make it right to start killing innocent cops in the street. You do that sort of thing, and soon there’s no-one to ‘protect and serve’ when your house is broken into, your children murdered, and your wife raped.

    That’s the sort of world the mob mentality is pushing toward.

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    • Hi W.R,

      I do not like mob mentality either, but I must look at some facts.

      The young men that have been killed by cops(seems like there is one almost every week, or every month) did not get a fair trial either. I’d rather the cops who stand for righteousness to step up.

      Yes we need someone to ‘protect and serve’ just as long as they are protecting and serving.

      Thank you.

      Like

      • Fair enough, Erica.

        I would say, though, that those people killed by cops (some of them at least) were killed because they presented a life-threatening risk to either the public or the cops trying to bring them in. They didn’t get a fair trial because of their own actions.

        Again, I’m not saying that the police are always (or even mostly) in the right. There is a HUGE police problem in America.

        The ‘facts’ are that just as there are some really bad criminals, there are some really bad cops. However, all I’m seeing in the media is villification of the police force: no followup of those murders of policemen, but a LOT of focus on what have been termed racist murders by policemen.

        I do VERY much agree that we can’t always label the police as ‘good’ and the people they arrest as ‘bad’. There will always be a time when to stand up against evil authorities is needful and even righteous. I do not think, however, that people of Baltimore or Ferguson were doing so. Mostly I saw looting and race-baiting.

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        • Hi there,

          What you have said makes some sense. As my pastor said this morning, All must come to the knowledge of God. I take the Lord’s stance on this. This is also why I hate guns and the excuse to use them by both criminals and police.

          Like

    • “Even if they’re not guilty of anything else, they’re guilty of being cops.”
      YIKES! W. R., that makes me cringe. It’s such a statement of prejudice. If we put in any race or any religion or a gender or just about any other designation, the person who said that would be reviled by the media, his publishers would be threatening to pull his contract, book sellers would be refusing to carry his books, and he’d be denounced for his hate speech.

      The mob mentality is truly frightening. I live in SoCal and was here during the riots that followed the Rodney King trial. The attitude of the leaders seemed to be to let things run their course. So I had neighbors (we live about 20 minutes from downtown LA) loading into an old beat up truck to head off to loot the stores since no one was getting arrested for stealing. They weren’t angry or oppressed (not part of the African-American community protesting). They simply saw a chance to get stuff they wanted, so why not?

      Eventually stores in our community were broken in to, but the local police responded, and in a day or so, any efforts to loot were quashed. The thing was, I realized just how close to anarchy we are. Mob rule really means no rule, and it is so sad to see the harm that comes when a group decides to take the law into their own hands. That’s true whether the group is inside or outside the police force.

      Becky

      Liked by 1 person


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