RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–In the macho, high-pressure world of law enforcement, a Christian officer can easily feel isolated both on the beat and in the squad room.
But nearly 190 Christian law enforcement officers and their spouses found camaraderie at the third annual Law Enforcement Summit at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, where they gathered Oct. 5-7.
The event provided an outlet to share their brotherhood and sisterhood in the law — and also in the Lord.
“When you’re working in the field, you’re not necessarily with other Christian people,” said participant Reed Johnson of Waynesboro, Va., a district law enforcement officer for the George Washington National Forest. “To be in a place with other law enforcement officers who know and love Christ — it’s powerful.”
From the latest in anti-terrorism techniques to ethics and integrity to protecting their home life from stresses of the job, officers from 17 states shared fellowship and encouragement from a Christian perspective.
“I speak with law enforcement groups all over the world, but I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to a Christian law enforcement group where we can really get honest about what the real problem is in the world today — and that’s spiritual,” said terrorism consultant Phil Little of California-based West Coast Detectives, Inc.
Little said he believes this is the most critical time since the beginning of time, a defining battle of good and evil.
“Where did terrorism start?” Little asked. “With the chief terrorist of all time, Satan, when he tried to take over heaven.”
Little’s global investigative work has taken him around the world, from consulting with criminologists to rappelling out of helicopters in the Middle East to study ways to reduce the risk of terrorism. To him, though, leading someone to the Lord is one of the most exciting things in life.
THE FINAL AUTHORITY
Ray Nash lectures on character training and the destructive influences of the police lifestyle to law enforcement groups nationwide. But he relished the chance to speak frankly about the basis of his program: the biblical mandate for authority.
“I really believe you can learn everything you need to know about law enforcement by reading the first few verses of Romans 13,” said Nash, founder and president of Police Dynamics Institute, Inc., a law enforcement leadership program based in Summerville, S.C.
“We are ministers of God,” Nash said. “That means you’ve been called into the ministry of law enforcement.”
With the highest rates of divorce, alcoholism and suicide, law enforcement professionals are at particular risk to fall prey to the pitfalls of anger, lust and promiscuity, greed, hatred and bitterness in the face of their daily challenges. It is easy to adopt a double standard and forget obedience and submission to God’s authority when wielding authority so commandingly, Nash said.
“A lot of officers feel like the rules apply to somebody else,” said Oklahoma City Chief of Chaplains, Jack Poe, who spoke on ethics. “They have this sense of entitlement.”
Poe contends that officers might hold a double standard because of the harsh realities, even horrors, they cope with. They can conveniently forget they are under the authority of God’s leadership.
“If you want to go out there and fight the devil on your own, you’re gonna get a whoopin’,” he said, indicating the predictable outcome of such attitudes.
After the Alfred P. Murrah Building was bombed nearly 10 years ago, for instance, Poe said officers who had trouble processing the traumatic event landed themselves in jail because of unethical behavior. Recently, the department started investigating an officer’s alleged connection to an interstate prostitution ring, a charge that can tarnish a whole department.
Also on the scene at Ground Zero in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Poe saw first-hand the stages of grief first responders go through. Both events were a chance to see the best and worst of society, he said.
“Tears unshed cause other organs to weep,” he warned, having seen too many incidents of heart attacks or other illnesses when officers tried to keep those emotions in check.
THE POSITIVE SIDE
For conference participants, it was a relief to talk about the positive side of law enforcement, too.
“On behalf of a grateful nation, let me say thank you for being part of the front line,” said Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Officers responded in kind, giving Land a standing ovation for his speech on the unparalleled challenges facing the nation today.
At the conference, officers could let down their guard to worship openly and fellowship with their brothers in blue who are also brothers in Christ, said Greenwood (S.C.) Sheriff’s Office investigator Dan Wideman. Harris Baptist Church sponsored Wideman and his wife, Kathy, to attend the conference.
“I think it’s a wonderful outreach that churches can do,” Wideman said. “Law enforcement officers are tough people to get to know. Lots of times, if others know you’re a Christian, you’re thought of as a ‘softie.’ You have to be tough.”
Capt. Bill Cunningham, of the Greenville (S.C.) County Sheriff’s Office, agreed. “When I first got into law enforcement 20 years ago, you did not talk about religion,” to other officers, Cunningham said. “It was just taboo.”
Now officers know firsthand that other Christian officers will support their stand for ethics, their commitment to their Lord and their daily law enforcement service.