As people across the nation have called for police departments to be defunded in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, Decision spoke with several Christian law enforcement officers, both black and white, about the challenges they face and their efforts to shine the light of Christ in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.
We work where the devil plays,” says Stephen Parker, a police officer in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Where the devil is, there is chaos,” Parker explains. “There is anger and bitterness and resentment. Where God is, there is order; there is love, joy and peace. When you look at the average law enforcement officer’s daily routine, we work where there is hatred and violence. There is victimization of people. And we as police officers are called to bring some semblance of order to that environment.”
The officers Decision spoke with acknowledged that there are bad cops, but they say the vast majority of law enforcement officers are heartbroken when they see racism and brutality.
Parker, a 25-year veteran, works in special investigations, which is focused mainly around gangs, drugs and violent crime. The job requires toughness, but that doesn’t mean it requires callousness or cruelty.
“Christ plays a major role in the way I do things,” Parker says. “Because of that, I’ve been able to help people, to sit and listen when people want to get something off their chest.” He has shared the Gospel with people he has arrested, and he will often give an arrestee time to hug his children before being taken to jail. “It has helped me build rapport with guys because people want to be treated like they matter,” Parker says.
Eric Hubbard, a detective from Long Beach, California, expresses similar sentiments. In addition to his detective work, Hubbard is an assistant pastor and serves as a chaplain for his department.
For him as a detective, Hubbard says, every day on the job is different. “But in another sense,” he adds, “every day is just like any other day— it’s another opportunity to serve the Lord and to represent Him.”
Hubbard says the current media narrative regarding police brutality and racism is misleading.
“If you ask whether police brutality and racism exists,” he says, “of course it does. We live in a fallen world that is influenced by Satan. But when you hear the narrative the media puts out there, you would think police brutality and racism in law enforcement is commonplace and that it is just the way the police do business. There couldn’t be anything further from the truth. I’ve been in law enforcement for almost 19 years. I work in a very busy city, and it’s a good-sized police department. And I work around some absolutely amazing men and women of every race and nationality.
“There are millions of police contacts every day across the nation, most of which are noneventful. When force is used, it’s actually quite rare. And when it is used, it’s usually very minor, and nobody is injured. Believe me, there’s nobody who wants to eradicate police brutality and racism more than fellow police officers.
“I speak to you as a police officer of almost 19 years. I speak to you as an African American. I speak to you as an assistant pastor. Whether here locally or on the other side of the nation, I’ve seen the same thing: I’ve seen people who serve because they want to help people. They serve because they feel it’s the right thing to help people in their time of need. The media doesn’t show the millions of positive contacts that officers have with the communities they serve. The public only hears about the encounters that end in tragedy, and they feel like that’s the norm because that’s all they ever see. But that’s far from the norm.”
Michael McSellers, a Virginia State Police trooper, seeks to bring God’s grace and truth into his interactions with the public. “We see people at their worst moments,” he says. “And to be able in those moments to speak life into them, regardless of the circumstances they may be dealing with, is huge.”
McSellers told Decision that he was racially profiled by police when he was 13. He was traumatized, but he had known from a very young age that he was meant to be a police officer, and he refused to let that incident deter him from his calling.
“I have three perspectives,” McSellers says. “The perspective of one who has been racially profiled; the perspective of being a police officer, knowing how hard the job is and that 99% of us are trying to serve the community and are honorable individuals; and the perspective of being a black police officer, which can be difficult today because it’s almost like, ‘which side are you on?’ I’m not on a side.”
He adds, “I’m on Christ’s side.”
These days, McSellers takes that Christian identity into increasingly difficult situations. “It’s really hard now,” he says, “because of the perception that all law enforcement officers are evil. That their intent is to hurt people and to get away with it. That’s very destructive because for the most part, it’s not true.”
The officers asked Christians to pray for those who protect and serve. “Pray for a cop’s mind,” Parker said, “because the mind is overwhelmed with everything it endures. Second, pray for our spirits. Officers now are getting so beat down emotionally and spiritually. And third, pray for our support system at home. I think that’s God’s trifecta. If you want to pray for a cop, that’s what to pray for.”
Law Enforcement Ministry
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team’s law enforcement ministry responds to crises that are especially difficult for law enforcement agencies, such as the deaths or serious injuries of officers. Many of the chaplains who minister in these situations are themselves active-duty or retired officers. The RRT also holds National Law Enforcement Retreats, addressing the emotional and spiritual needs of officers and spouses. Similar retreats encourage police chiefs and sheriffs in their spiritual fitness. A 40-hour course equips law enforcement officers to serve as chaplains to fellow officers, and the RRT is developing a course to help strengthen marriages that would be available for law enforcement agencies and their police academies.
For more information about these ministries, go to RRT.BillyGraham.org/NLEM.