Can The Police Do What We Can’t?

We have a law and order crisis in America. Daily we hear about the tensions growing between law enforcement and the communities they serve. We hear about the over-reaction of scared police officers, the random shooting of police officers in response, and the burning and vandalization of neighborhoods by protestors. We are all aware of disorder in so many homes and schools. Disrespect and abuse of power is making it increasingly dangerous for families who simply want to live a good life. Many are wondering if pervasive mistrust is becoming our cultural norm.

Recently, I received a letter on the stationary of the “El Paso County Sheriff’s Office” that opened by saying,

“We are experiencing a major change in our society from a posture of respect for law enforcement to a volatile attitude of extreme disrespect. Thankfully, not everyone in our nation fits the category mentioned above, but there is a segment that does. Their malevolent thoughts and actions often are the seeds that spawn tragic events.”

The letter went on to say that authorities are removing “Sheriff” from the decals on official chaplain’s  vehicles for the safety of their volunteers, and that the “fire departments and search and rescue organizations are also changing their uniforms so their personnel will not be mistakenly targeted as law enforcement.”

In pastoral ministry, I see the rise of arrogance and self-exaltation, and the crumbling of mutual submission, trust, and common courtesy. I value living a submitted life and enjoying the security of submitting to authority. But when I have to exercise the authority God has given me, I get nervous, in this cultural environment.

Good parents feel it too. They are often frustrated by the fear that if they discipline their wayward children, the government will punish them. Too many of our children are learning how to manipulate parents, police, school personnel and other authorities. While police departments are having to deal with defiant, lawless, arrogant misfits who know their rights, well-intentioned parents are frantically looking to houses of worship or community centers to help them keep their kids safe and on the right path.

I long for better manners and the return of personal humility and shame when it comes to wrongdoing. My mother ensured manners in all her children with the power of a glance that we knew meant business, and my grandmother used to say, “shame on you” to me when I would go outside to play with messy hair or unkempt clothes. Now, being caught misbehaving produces defiance toward authority instead of humility and an expectation that our authorities are helping us right our wrongs.

With the dysfunction and disintegration of our nuclear families, kids are learning to play their warring parents against one another, and the police departments are being asked to enforce laws in public that parents can’t, or are not allowed to, enforce at home.

If parents find it difficult or impossible to enforce the rules around the house, it’s unreasonable for them to then blame a police officer for struggling to enforce laws in public with their disrespectful and disorderly children. Why would parents think that their child will be orderly in public when they can’t get their child to make their bed, brush their teeth, or carry out the trash at home?

It’s sad to see broken hearted parents weeping on television because a police officer was afraid of their lawless child and over-reacted — even when the parents did not understand how to get their child to obey the laws of their own home. I know it’s a generalization, but if parents can’t control their own child with civility, why would they think the police department can? It’s a pervasive problem we all share.

Understand, I’m not defending the abuse of state power by the police. But, I am saying that we can’t raise disrespectful, lawless hoodlums and expect the police to treat them like they are model citizens.

Seeing the parents of criminals weeping on television about their “wonderful” child being abused by the police when their rap sheet reaches from the podium to the floor concerns me. It might be true that the child’s offense is minor this time, but the officer’s actions might also reflect that the police officer just wanted an honest days work for enough pay to feed his or her kids, and ended up dealing with a defiant hoodlum.

If I were a police officer today, I would think twice about pursuing anyone who is of a different race than me so as not to be accused of racism, and I would hesitate to risk my personal safety or future with someone intoxicated or high.

I think police officers are having to make the same decisions to protect themselves. Crime rates are skyrocketing in areas where the police are under close scrutiny. High early retirement rates among police officers are getting the attention of even our politicians. And our police academies are having trouble recruiting cadets.

The mayor of Colorado Springs, when he was our district attorney, visited our church years ago and said that he never had to prosecute anyone who had been in church the prior Sunday. I know some churches have changed since then and are now promoters of victimization, hatred, and disrespect. But I am convinced a return to biblical New Testament Christianity and a renewal of emphasis on inner transformation by the power of the Holy Spirit would be more helpful than simple social activism. Spirit-filled people are respectful, turn the other cheek when wronged, and seek justice and mercy.

We need a 21st century revival so our police officers will no longer be scared of the citizens they are charged to protect and serve. I do want law and order in our homes and communities, but it has to start with the internal restraint of evil in our hearts which is stirred by an understanding of the Scriptures and God’s conviction of sin. The outcome produces manners, shame about our own wrongdoing, and better behavior. Spiritual revival leaves the police with little to do. And the result would be that the cars and uniforms of our public servants can once again be marked and be a source of pride and dignity in our communities.

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11 thoughts on “Can The Police Do What We Can’t?

  1. Jeff Korsen says:

    Thank you! . . . well stated Ted, as always. I couldn’t agree more…the welfare/victim mentality has reached to the highest levels of society. The real responsibility for most of these attitudes lies clearly in the home…with the function of parenting. Paul (the Apostle) even suggests that there is a “healthy” fear (respect and self-restraint) of public authority that God himself authorizes and scripture supports. Pastors today are far more concerned with the politically correct fallout they might experience if they dared to preach such truth…or perhaps, publish your article. God give us the courage to “speak the Word boldly” with our families and in the spheres of our influence.

  2. Deborah Shaffer says:

    In small town America I see it as mutual respect issue. I have seen a young person argue with police and then their parent shows up and does the same. Parents have taught lack of respect to authority. Then statistically many officers carry a chip on their shoulder and misuse the power. given them. They get away with it because who would question a corrupt officer in a small town. The institution of church produces religion and without the Holy Spirit being allowed in our churches chaos will continue. The climate of the church affects the city and visa versa. Accountability is a preventative measure yet people are embracing anything goes. Sometimes we get busy and forget the power of prayer. Thanks Pastor Ted for a touchy topic that needs to be looked at from both sides!

  3. pat hall says:

    I have a friend whose son came home from school and informed her that he had rights. She had asked him to do something and he decided, from what he was being taught in school, that he didn’t have to do what she said. My friend is a Christian and she quickly set him straight. That was here in Colorado Springs in the 90’s and after that he was respectful and today he is a policeman in GA. My son didn’t go through that…he went to a Christian school and was taught to respect authority.
    I am so thankful I went to a public school before they became government schools. We started the day with the pledge, bible reading and a prayer AND we were actually taught subjects such as History (which included honoring our forefathers) Math, English, Science, etc. I feel so sorry for the kids today, all I had to worry about in school was not getting caught with gum in my mouth.

  4. Travis Waits says:

    Such timely and wise word Ted! I concur that the tone toward “authority” has profoundly changed, to a byword, and the lack thereof is a direct tie to the foundation established in our homes.

    As a culture we have lost our ’embarrassment” … just like Jeremiah 6:15 says “…Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush…”.

    Unfortunately the stance that the El Paso Sheriff is taking is necessary, and becoming normative for our first responders to take, for the safety of their personnel.

    I grew up in a time that it was still the “village” mentality of parenting, common sense, decency, and ethics. If you misbehaved, you could expect any “parent” within ear shot (or arms length) to correct you with appropriate discipline. We have allowed this shift to become a systemic issue facilitated by our cultural doctrine of promoting “feelings” instead of personal responsibility.

  5. jenny says:

    You are at best naive and at worst a boneless racist. I realize that you didn’t specifically go after race here, but don’t you dare pretend that it’s an even playing field. People of color who have not committed any crimes are in fear of police. White people don’t recognize how much they get away with. Yes, we should follow the rules and bring in the sunshine wherever we can get it from, but let’s be real; Americans of color fear for their safety relative to law enforcement whether they have committed a crime or not. They have to be so damned upstanding at all times for fear for their life. And you do not know what it’s like until it’s in your own living room. My beautiful daughter is growing vegetables for the homeless this summer. She is far more upstanding of a citizen than I am. But she will be followed in stores, questioned about her choices and made to feel like she isn’t good enough. Especially if she questions authority.

    • Deborah Shaffer says:

      It is the opposite where I live. A person of any color other than white is left to do what they want. Our law enforcement is so afraid of being accused of racism that they stop only white people. Highway patrol has been told not to stop anyone except white truck drivers (which are a minority) because all other truck drivers know how to play the race card. Random required stops and questions are only for us whites here. I am not taking a side as I believe that God created us all equal and I treat people as such. This is just a different perspective from where I live. I am sorry that your daughter has been made to feel less than she is.

      • Ritchie says:

        I think its great that you live in a place where people are treated equally. But the problem is that this attitude is the exception and the not the rule. I readily accept that racial tensions in this country is a very complex issues that has its roots deep in this country’s history.

    • BYOB says:

      Thank you I also felt the same when I read this. I know the police does a great job but I do not like it that there are a bunch of rotten apples in the basket with the good apples. Makes all of them look bad. Just as bad color people make all those good color people look bad. This is just not acceptable on both sides.

  6. Soledad o Nunnally says:

    Respect n Ibedience. Honestly
    Discipline,
    Estar Home. From the very
    Beginning wee as a parent. Have
    The Right to defend. Discipline our
    Children?and. The. Is. A fact
    Teach our. Children is our. Responsbilty?

  7. Hayward Wilson says:

    Finally, this is something with which I vehemently disagree with you.

    I thing the police state has increased in communities of color while white people roam free, committing crime after crime and going unpunished. White people are rarely, if ever, patrolled for any crime so they do not get seen doing the evil they do.

    70% of black men are in jain on non-violent drug offenses, but we see and estimate revenue of drug sales at such a size that there have to be white people engaging in non-violent drug offenses at the same rate. BUT white people are not patrolled, so they are not arrested for these offenses. Consequently, white people are woefully under represented in the prison system. If they were only patrolled, there would be 4 times as many white men in jail for non-violent drug offenses as are incarcerated now.

    It’s nearly four decades of this type of police work. Countless families of color have been destroyed by the man or woman breadwinner of the family being incarcerated for crimes that way more white people also do and which white people do at a greater rate than black people. The police state brought the policemen to the black communities, not the white communities.
    so white people get to commit non-violent drug offenses, profit from it, feed their families and go to church and feel as though they are morally superior to black people with white people having the undeserved reputation of being good, holy and just people while black people are considered criminals.

    If this isn’t the effect of white supremacy in force, then nothing is an indication of its persistent existence in american life. Black families being decimate while white families grow and prosper. I wonder how holy the white families would be if they were patrolled and arrested in the same manner. It would never happen because the white supremacists making the decisions for police distribution, would not let it happen.

    • Deb Shaffer says:

      I am so sorry for the injustices that you speak of sir. Where I live the opposite goes on. People of any diversity are not pulled over, questioned or anything because law enforcement and everyone for that matter is afraid of being falsely accused when they are just doing their job.Once again I am so sorry that you have seen white supremacy in force. Your scenario is exactly the opposite of what we experience here but no one seems to want to report on this.

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