There has been so much thrown at us, as a society, such as Black Lives Matter and today’s Protest Movement, not to mention police officers being shot and killed on a regular basis. It begs the question: how do we deal with this, as Christians? As followers of Jesus, we want to deal with it in the proper manner – in a way that is pleasing to God and that serves our fellow man. In my pursuit of an answer to this, I haven’t seen anyone asking police officers – especially Christian police officers for their perspective. Many Christian leaders are telling us that we need to listen to what the protesters have to say and take it seriously, but on the other hand, some of the things that are being thrown at cops today are testing the limits of their service. As Christians, this tests our commitment to truth. And, I want to make sure that we don’t get caught up in the lies that our culture and our media is throwing at us. We need to hear from honest, Christian police officers who are out on the front lines of society – our brothers and sisters in Christ who put themselves on the line for us. That’s why I have asked my neighbor and friend, Chris to come and share his thoughts.
Chris, Southern California Police Officer: First, it’s important to address certain truths. One key truth is that in the absence of fact, people tend to invent a narrative. And, I think that in law enforcement, we do ourselves a disservice by not being as transparent as we perhaps could or should be. Another truth is that, unfortunately due to politics or other ungodly influences, we have leaders who are too willing to go along with narratives that they believe the media will support or the public wants to hear.
I believe the opposite. I believe that the public wants to hear the truth. They want to hear our success stories. The truth is that any police officer who has worked more than five or ten years in this profession has undoubtedly been involved in multiple instances where they would be legally, morally and ethically justified in taking a human life. But, we don’t. Because, the truth is that there is a higher calling – even a higher burden of proof – than our court system, and that is God.
Today, we operate with an overriding hierarchy of life that puts the lives of innocent people above the lives of officers.
Now I understand that the media influences the public mindset. Therefore, I believe that law enforcement needs to invite them to do things like go on ridealongs and have a one-on-one experience with an officer to see what life is like in the front seat of a squad car.
And, I know that we are fallible. We recruit our officers from the human race. None of us are perfect. I’ll admit that there are bad cops out there – they are few and far between, but they are there. However, typically, they simply don’t last very long.
Jefferson Drexler, e2 media network producer: Now, as you said, in the absence of information, we tend to fill in the blanks ourselves in regards to the stories we hear. Do you think, then, that our law enforcement agencies – and maybe even our churches – should be faster in making the public aware of the facts? Or are there other ways to avoid the false narratives (aka lies) that tend to take a hold of our culture?
Chris: Well, I know that in all of San Diego County, all of the Chiefs of Police, the Sheriff, and the District Attorney have signed an agreement regarding body-worn camera footage in officer-involved shootings. But, the hard truth is that it takes two-to-three days to get that footage processed and released. There are Memorandums of Understanding that need to be processed. It needs to be reviewed by senior law enforcement and the District Attorney before it is thrown out for public consumption. Now, I believe that two-to-three days is a reasonable amount of time before releasing something with as much gravity as body-cam footage.
What most people forget is that whenever an officer uses deadly force, it’s not just the person who dies and their family, friends and community who are affected. The police officer, their family, friends, and community are also greatly affected. There is always a much bigger picture than a single side of the coin in any incident. And, we have seen the repercussions nationwide – even when shootings have eventually been determined to be legally, morally and ethically justified – of the biased and false narratives that get thrown around. It has resulted in more violence, millions of dollars of damage, significant injuries, and even more death… even the killing of innocent people who have been innocently protesting within their Constitutional rights.
Joel Fieri, Big Picture Podcast Host: And that gets to the heart of the matter, doesn’t it? When I hear you talking about a “protest” that results in hundreds of millions of dollars and even more violence… that’s not a protest anymore. That’s a riot. That goes beyond any Constitutional right to express oneself. Now, I know that these events often begin long before the two-to-three day period when body-camera footage is made available. It’s as if they believe that there must be immediate “justice” or else everything gets burned down. Any reasonable person would look at that and have to admit that it is NOT a protest. It’s a riot.
Jefferson: Yet, from the other side of the coin, while Chris and others feel that a few days is a reasonable amount of time before body camera footage is released to the public, the public has grown accustomed to Facebook Live video, which is streamed instantly and made viral within an hour. So, there’s a battle of “speed of information” along with “perspective of information”. Therefore, in order to make a point and reveal the need of radical change to our culture and our system, some feel that a radical display of protest is warranted.
Chris: I would agree if this were 1773, but today we have the First Amendment, which guarantees the Freedom of Assembly, and Freedom of Speech… therefore today’s laws, system and culture are not comparable to the Boston Tea Party.
Jefferson: Okay, then what is the proper way to bridge this gap?
Chris: Well, hopefully it is bridged before the critical incident even occurs. And, I think that in San Diego County, we collectively do a good job at this. We have a pretty good relationship with the various communities throughout the county. And I think this was evidenced in the most recent officer involved shooting in El Cajon, where several days of protests were overall peaceful and meaningful. Whereas, I believe that if you take that exact same shooting and put it in another part of the country, you likely would have had a far different outcome. Nearly every law enforcement office has public outreach programs throughout our county which help build bridges between our police officers and our residents before any stressful events occur.
Jefferson: But, when you host public outreach events, like Coffee with a Cop or Open Houses, aren’t you just preaching to the choir? Are the people who attend those events NOT the ones who would be out on the streets protesting and rioting in the event of an officer involved shooting? How would you bridge that giant chasm between law enforcement and those who would be out in the streets rioting?
Chris: Truly, that is the biggest challenge. We understand that we can host every event in the book, but we can’t dictate who will show up. The key, I believe, is to be as open and transparent as possible by firstly holding ourselves accountable and policing ourselves. And, if someone has a complaint against an officer – if they feel that they were not treated fairly or professionally – then we encourage people to come forward and file a complaint so we can thoroughly investigate.
Also, studies have shown that officers who wear body cams have a significantly lower than those who do not. Plus, over 90% of the complaints that are filed against officers wearing body cams are proven to be unfounded and even proven to be false.
Jefferson: Now, switching gears in a way, you mentioned to me offline that sometimes well-intentioned parents will point out an officer to their kids and say something to the effect of, “If you don’t shape up, that guy’s going to take you off to jail!”
Chris: Right, I personally witnessed moments like that when I was working foot patrol at a mall during the holidays. What I would much rather parents do is to help us build the bridge between their children and us in uniform. I will even go back to the kids, kneel down to their level and say something like, “Oh… we don’t arrest good kids like you.” Hopefully, by shaking the child’s and the parent’s hands with a smile and a conversation, we can turn a potentially negative moment into a lasting positive one.
Joel: You know… I hear what you are saying, and it seems to make some sense. But on another level, I’m jumping out of my skin here. It seems like all we have talked about here is putting the onus on the police officers to prove that they are not the bad guys.
And that is where I believe we have gone wrong.
When I see the Black Lives Matter protests, the media is perpetually stoking the lies that the police are the bad guys. It is repeated over and over again that the issue is how cops treat minorities. And, while it is true that there may be some challenges in that arena, in the big picture of our society, when bad things start really going down, it is the police who step up and in between danger and the rest of us.
We saw this in Dallas. When shots began to ring out at the police officers, it were the very cops who were targeted who created human shields around the civilians there – even those who were protesting.
So, this lie out there that there is a war against young black men and that they are being systematically hunted by police officers has been debunked by actual statistical data right and left.
And, there is no comparison between the riots and protests of 1773 and today. As Chris said, they didn’t have the First Amendment, or body cams, or civil liberties that Americans have today. Our Founding Fathers had to protest in order to secure those rights and today’s protesters should use those rights effectively and responsibly… not by rioting in the streets claiming that they are victimized just as the colonists were.
Police officers simply are not hunting down young black people. If that were the case, I’d be right there with Black Lives Matter… BUT that’s simply not true.
So, especially as Christians, how do we get past this lie that is being circulated and repeated in our culture? It seems as though – as uncomfortable as it may make us feel – we Christians need to choose a side.
Will you choose to be on the police officer’s side of the argument or on the protester’s side?
Now, I know that there are a lot of voices out there that are contrary to this. They say that we need to NOT choose a side and have an open ear to all stories. But, when the stories are straight up lies, we CANNOT continue to “keep listening”.
Chris: Well, from my perspective the key is prayer. Prayer cannot be overlooked. We all need to pray for our policy makers, for the people who are in authority to make decisions and hold people accountable. We need to pray that we are selecting the most qualified people in law enforcement. We also need to pray for discretion and discernment, especially in stressful moments.
Jefferson: Now, Joel… you mentioned the statistics that debunk the narratives against today’s police officers. And, growing up playing ball we used to have a mantra: “The Ball Doesn’t Lie”, and likewise, you hold that “The Stats Don’t Lie”. Yet, if I am a young black man in America today and the only contact that I have with police is being thrown up against a wall because I happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people; and then I know of other guys who have nothing but bad altercations with police officers; and then someone who looks like me and lives near me gets shot and killed by a cop… from this young black person’s perspective, 100% of their personal statistics say that cops are out to get me.
So, while it may be a false narrative – or lie – from a big picture, national point of view, when it comes to individual perspectives, the perspectives tell a different story.
So, how do Christian cops fight this uphill battle?
Chris: Well, honestly, it is the ultimate battle of good versus evil. We simply cannot surrender to evil. And we have to find a way for good to triumph. I believe that prayer has a significant role in that battle, as does educating people on both sides of the issue. We have to get to influential people within our minority communities and work with them on opening doors between law enforcement and the pubic.
I think we need to open up opportunities for law abiding people who feel disenfranchised to ride along with our officers and see what life is like in the front seat of a squad car. Then we can discuss not just the “how’s” of law enforcement, but the “why’s” of what we do.