Why We Need Christians in Law Enforcement
Growing up in a house where both of my parents were black and in law enforcement gave me a very interesting perspective on police and police brutality. While many people, especially African American men, may feel like they would be sell outs if they joined “the enemy” (law enforcement), or even spoke well of “the enemy” or the criminal justice system, there remains a huge need for black police officers, and more specifically Christian black officers in our criminal justice system. In black communities across America, it is no secret that the criminal justice system is flawed and in need of reform. Many minority communities are poorly policed simply because the system that is supposed to protect, serve, and value the lives in the community do not see them as fellow citizens, but rather as enemies and strangers.
Police as Servants, not Heroes
The recent horrific shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile have once again brought to light the need for police reform. Living in a digital age, we are now able to witness not just a video of the past, but a live video. Philando Castile’s girlfriend took the initiative to record the aftermath of the police involved shooting that left her boyfriend Philando dying live on Facebook. It was a horrific and tragic scene to watch as the obviously frightened police officer pointed the gun at Philando for several minutes, even after he had been shot.
This has been a consistent narrative in the lives of African Americans over the past several decades. Day after day, month after month, and year after year, the stats of police officers killing unarmed black men and women rise.
From people running away from cops, selling CDs, or a kid playing with a toy gun, it seems that the racially systemic false fear of darker pigment is driving the “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality in the lives of some our law enforcement. This fear that is found in law enforcement is rooted in systematic and institutionalized racism. The idea that the police are good and poor minority communities are bad is an idea that must be confronted.
Minority communities that are violent with high crime rates don’t need heroic cops, they need servant cops who will protect and love the community. Law enforcement that find themselves serving in urban communities must love the people in the community. This takes time, trust, and patience—three things that the cops who killed Alton Sterling and Philando Castile didn’t show; I believe their fear hindered their ability to love and their lust for heroism pulled the trigger.
This brings me to my point and eager prayer, that minority and poor communities need Christians who are in law enforcement to follow the example of Jesus and be willing to serve the community even unto death. We should fight for police reform, but even more than that, we should be willing and ready to serve and be a light in a dark place, which could mean serving in law enforcement to push back darkness that is systematic racism.
Be the Change
In recent weeks, there have been protests and marches against police brutality and systemic racism. People have changed their schedules, and have prioritized marches to stand for black lives. Churches have held prayer meetings and vigils for Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the five police officers who were murdered in Dallas.
As we look for solutions and make plans to stand up against injustice on both sides, Christians must be willing to go past marching and praying to move towards action. We can no longer afford to have people policing our communities in fear with a lack of understanding towards the systematic issues plaguing minority neighborhoods. For example, the war on drugs is a war on minority communities and the police stationed in these communities need to be servants rather than militant heroes. We need Christian law enforcement who don’t see people as statistics or simply as criminals, but see people as image bearers of God.
The Solution is to Serve
Police are called to serve and protect those in the community, and the best people to understand that are Christians. Our Lord and Savior Jesus has modeled for His people how to serve and protect, even at the expense of His life and desires. Jesus is the perfect example in that He came from Heaven to earth to love, serve, and know His people in such a way that would cost Him his very life.
As Christians who have embraced the Gospel, we should be willing to lead in this way. The solution to injustice isn’t solely police reform; rather it’s believers and churches loving communities and being willing to serve their communities, even if that means encouraging and equipping the upcoming generation to get involved in the criminal justice system.
I believe there is a huge need for Christians in law enforcement to exemplify what love and true service in minority and poor communities looks like. We can push back darkness and injustice by following Jesus’ example of serving and building relationships within the community we are serving and working in. Reconciliation won’t come primarily through government reform, but will come through people coming together, serving their community in love through the ministry of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.