There is a sign in a yard in our small town that says, “We Back the Blue.” I’m assuming it’s a response to growing negative sentiment in the U. S. when we see examples of abuse. We always have the same response to the sign. We say, “Most of us do!” It is true. Most Americans are supportive of the police function in this country, we want there to be “law and order,” but we simply disagree on how it should be implemented. So where is the actual tension?
I believe the actual tension is that when we see abuses, we know that these kinds of things do not get resolved easily. Police corruption is easy to dismiss by saying, “Well, if they weren’t committing crimes or resisting arrest, they wouldn’t be in that situation.” There is some truth to that, but this is really like saying, “If there weren’t criminals, then we wouldn’t have issue with police misconduct.” If we did not have criminals, we wouldn’t need a police function at all.
I don’t know if I can solve the tension, but I can only tell you how I back the blue. By the way, their uniforms are never blue in the small towns – usually, they are some version of black or khaki or green. But the metaphor is prevalent, so we’ll stick with it. This is my approach to backing the blue.
I hold them accountable
Like everything else in my life that I respect, I don’t like it when something impure or contradictory is introduced. I don’t like sexual misconduct in the church, I don’t like when leaders abuse underlings and I cringe when I see police officers or elected officials abusing their power. When I see these abuses, it erodes away at my trust for the institution. For example, right now I have a very unfavorable opinion of organized religion because of the repeated offenses. I don’t necessarily want that institution to go away, but for it to be viable, it has to be honorable and the people within have to care about its conduct.
I obey the law
I am a bit rebellious in that I don’t do what I see everyone else doing. I like to search for truth and then follow my heart instead of what public opinion or the crowd beckons me to. But I have always felt an energy drawing me to do things the right way and not cut corners. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t break any laws because doing so causes a disruption in energy and flow of the society. It doesn’t ever benefit me long term to take shortcuts.
I report transgressions
I am more apt to be the person that turns someone in that the one who would tell you “it’s okay this time.” I don’t think grace is ignoring the law – I think grace is understanding people make mistakes. It’s about love and sometimes people need to feel the weight of their decisions as they also feel our love. As a safety officer, I often had to report people that circumvented the rules, but ultimately it made the company a safer place to be. I do the same thing when I see reckless drivers, I call it in.
I examine my attitude
I have great respect for the law enforcement in our area. In small towns, we are usually supported by one or two local officers and several county deputies and the Sheriff. We also get support from the State Police (Highway Patrol), who live in the counties they serve. We get to know these people and if they have a character issue, it becomes apparent rather quickly. I know they’re not perfect, but they do not get paid enough and they risk paying the ultimate price.
I believe a lot of the discussion gets muddied because we’re trying to discuss a nationalized approach to a sometimes-local problem. We instantly see all the problems in the nation, and we clamor for instant solutions; but like most things, the solutions are complicated and difficult.
I don’t think planting a “We Back the Blue” sign does anything except that it clears our conscience from having to think about a tough problem. Here is what I will do next week.
When I pull out of my driveway, I will latch up my seatbelt and drive responsibly. When I see the officers at the corner, I will greet them with a wave and send them some positive energy. I will vote for people that are trying to make things better for the police and not just buying them bigger guns (I know that is a complicated issue). If I ever see them doing something that violates the law, I will report them just like I would any criminal.
For too long churches and small towns bypassed their problems. But when we ignore our problems, even if we can control our local situations in our small towns or small churches, sometimes there are residual ripple effects that spread out into the world. Wounded and abused people hurt other people and maybe that’s the root of most misconduct anyway.
Like most things, we need to discuss this without name calling and blaming. I believe we can.
Karl Forehand is a former pastor, podcaster, and award-winning author. His books include Apparent Faith: What Fatherhood Taught Me About the Father’s Heart and the soon-to-be released Tea Shop. He is the creator of The Desert Sanctuary and Too Many Podcasters podcasts. He is married to his wife Laura of 32 years and has one dog named Winston. His three children are grown and are beginning to multiply!