During my years as a pastor in San Diego County, I had the privilege of being a law enforcement chaplain for two incredible agencies over the course of nine years. During those years I went through an academy with the officers, trained on the mat, in the classroom and on the range with the officers, spent over 1,000 hours on ride-alongs with the officers, and even spent some time with the detectives who investigate cases. I’ve been to their funerals, I’ve married them and I’ve buried their children, and I have nowhere on planet Earth ever seen the men and women who are their equal.
And so I must speak out during these turbulent days when the irrational hatred of so many is leveled undeservedly at the men and women in blue. Yes, a truly heinous and hideous thing was done under color of law to George Floyd by a bad (and possibly racist) cop, but that now ex-cop is no more representative of the vast majority of cops than a man like Jimmy Swaggart is representative of my profession. I’ve ridden with cops and deputies from all across the spectrum – male and female officers, straight and gay officers, bright-eyed young officers and crusty old officers, antireligious officers, non-religious officers, officers from any number of religions, and even an officer who also happened to be the finest evangelist I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ve ridden with black, white, Hispanic and Asian officers, officers who are first- or second-generation Middle Eastern immigrants, officers who are politically liberal and those who are politically conservative. All are officers from a vast world of differences, but who have the most important things in common, and those things are powerful. So please, let me tell you about the cops I know.
The cops I know do what they do because they’re protectors, and they love law, and they love order, and they love civilization.
The cops I know are heroes, and heroes’ hearts beat within their chests, and have ever since they were young.
The cops I know can all remember their proudest day – the day their shield was pinned on their chest and they took the oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of their State. For some the only prouder day was the day their child was born, and in some rare cases the day they had the privilege of pinning the shield on the chest of their own child who followed in their footsteps.
The cops I know love the Constitution, and are its staunchest supporters.
The cops I know are underpaid, overworked and underappreciated by those they serve, but they serve nonetheless.
The cops I know don’t view policing as a job – they view it as a calling. To some, even a sacred calling.
The cops I know rush into danger without a second thought – not just because they’re trained to, but because it’s in their hearts to do so.
The cops I know don’t want to die for you and me, but won’t hesitate to do so if their sacrifice means we can continue living.
The cops I know hope to begin every public encounter with respect.
The cops I know hate bad, lazy and corrupt cops with a vengeance.
The cops I know don’t give a lick about someone’s skin color, sexual orientation, ethnicity or social status. What they do care about is fighting crime, protecting the innocent and getting dangerous people off the street.
The cops I know are crime fighters, and as crime fighters they go where crime is heaviest.
The cops I know train in the arts of violence – not because they love violence, but because they know that for civilization to survive, those who stand for what is good must be better at violence than those who stand for what is evil.
The cops I know are prepared to take human life, but hope they never have to.
The cops I know are warriors who would never back down to anarchists unless ordered to do so by those of lesser spine.
The cops I know are part Jackie Chan, part Wyatt Earp, part Dr. Phil, part Aristotle and part Robin Williams, all within the same shift.
The cops I know can make sailors blush and poets weep.
The cops I know quietly and secretly buy things for the needy and the hurting they encounter on the beat.
The cops I know hold Christmas parties for the victimized kids and families they deal with every year.
The cops I know spend their own time and funds supporting charities for the less fortunate in their communities.
The cops I know have all seen mangled, broken and lifeless bodies.
The cops I know are all familiar with the smell of decaying human flesh.
The cops I know rescue sexually- and physically-abused kids from predators (who are often the kids’ family members), and then go home to their own children and families, pretending they’ve seen nothing that disturbs their soul.
The cops I know ache for the victims of unsolved crimes.
The cops I know never stop thinking of the difficult cases they encounter or are solving.
The cops I know have seen a thousand difficult, horrible things that cannot be unseen.
The cops I know, because of all they’ve seen, have difficulty sleeping.
The cops I know, because of all they’ve seen, sometimes weep in private or scream in anger at the universe.
The cops I know, because of all they’ve seen, sometimes lose hope.
The cops I know, because of all they’ve seen, sometimes become jaded.
The cops I know, because of all they’ve seen, sometimes drink in excess to dull the inner pain.
The cops I know, because of all they’ve seen, often lose their marriages. Not because they want to, but because they try to shield their spouses (and their children) from the avalanche of dark and nightmarish things that plague their working lives, and that shield eventually becomes a wall of separation.
The cops I know are intelligent, remarkable, skilled, dedicated, caring and innovative public servants. In short, they’re the best of us – the very best of us. If we lose faith with them, if we defund them, if we chase them out of town or force them to walk away or take an early retirement, we’ll not only lose what’s best about us, but we’ll lose our civilization in the process.
The cops I know don’t do what they do to be thanked, but rather because their noble hearts are driven to protect and serve whether they are thanked or not. But trust me, right now they need to be thanked, and they need to know that we have their backs as they try to stand up to these forces that would destroy all of civilized life.
The cops I know have never asked for anything, so I’m asking for them: Openly show your support for them, openly thank them, diligently pray for them and be there when they need help.
And to all the cops I know (and don’t know):
Thank you. Be safe, and stay dangerous. Your friends are many.