The Chaplain's Notebook

The View From the Passenger Seat: Anti-Cop Fever

I don’t think my experience was all that unique, but it is another part of the story. On my ride-along on July 7, about five hours into the P.M. Shift, we received a radio message to return to the station so that deputies could double up on their patrols. That meant, of course, that I as a chaplain was finished for the night. I had ridden with this deputy before, and we both shared our curiosity as to what was going on. He made a quick phone call, and we found out there had been an officer shooting in Dallas. The situation was still unclear, but the station captain wanted to take precautions.

After the deputy parked the patrol car at the station to drop me off and to pick up his new “partner,” I headed to my car, saying a short prayer for his safety and all the other law enforcement people working that night. I was almost to my car when I met a sergeant I knew from another station, who was just getting out from a joint meeting. He asked what was going on, and I told him about being brought back to the station because of the shooting in Dallas. He hadn’t heard about that yet, having, ironically, been meeting to organize local outreach activities in distressed neighborhoods, especially the youth of those neighborhoods, to let them interact with deputies and learn more about why law enforcement operates as it does. It was an outreach that was to go both ways: Let people ask any questions they wanted or share any beefs they had, and then let a deputy offer any explanation or clarification that might help. He was excited about the possibilities and I shared his excitement.

It wasn’t until the next morning that I found out exactly how many Dallas officers had been killed and how. For me, I couldn’t help but sit there and shake my head, wondering how it is that the law enforcement officers I knew were making the effort to reach out to help the community to better understand their work, and yet those Dallas police officers were dead because of what I believe was misinformation and misplaced hatred.

I can point to a dozen or more factors that I think contribute to a continuous undermining of law enforcement. Sadly, I can also cite as many consequences and point out real, ongoing examples of what happens when law enforcement does break down. It always leads to more human suffering. I know that no law enforcement agency is perfect and that every one of them has some bad apples. But I also know those agencies want to find and get rid of those bad apples as much as the public that has to deal with them does.

What can be done? First, I hate to sound cliché, but we all have to realize there are no quick fixes. We didn’t get into this situation overnight, and we aren’t going to solve it overnight, either. It is a long-term result of political-, educational-, media- and activist-driven sources all promoting their own agendas. We have to be in this for the long haul.

Second, we have to realize that all we can control is what we do, where we are. For example, I wish I could do something that would make everyone understand, support and appreciate law enforcement officers. I wish I could do something that would solve all the misperceptions people have, but that’s not realistic. What I can do is work with the people I come in contact with. I can take the time to explain to the best of my knowledge why things are done the way they are.

Third, I want to encourage all law enforcement officers, but especially the Sheriff’s deputies (and even more, the deputies I serve personally as their chaplain) to keep doing a good job. In my opinion, nothing is more effective in turning the tide of opinion than continuing to act professionally and courteously with the public and carrying out your duties. Like it or not, you’re in a situation you didn’t create, and, as the saying goes, “Nothing succeeds like success.” I believe there is overwhelming but untold public support for what you do and that eventually the pendulum of criticism will swing back to a more balanced and fair perspective. But in the meantime, you have to keep slogging away.

I know it’s not easy. As a matter of fact, it’s downright unfair and frustrating! But that’s one of the reasons I’m here as a chaplain and why the Psychological Services Bureau is here. Share your frustrations with us. I promise that we’ll listen.

How can I contact a chaplain? Chaplains are available at their unit of assignment or by calling the Psychological Services Bureau at (213) 738-3500.