HOUSTON (BP) — Dozens of law enforcement officers, clergy, and local and state representatives gathered this week at the Houston Police Officers Union headquarters to launch Pray for Police. It’s a campaign they hope will heal the city and unite the nation in support of those sworn to protect and serve.
The Pray for Police campaign ran 6 a.m. Sept. 9 through 6 a.m. Sept. 10 at the HPOU offices in downtown Houston. Police chaplains and volunteer clergy were available for prayer during those hours while others distributed 30,000 blue wristbands with the slogan Pray for Police and #P4P. The wristbands served as a reminder to pray and as a sign of encouragement to police officers. Organizers hope the prayer support will continue far beyond this week and beyond Houston and Harris County.
The campaign has been endorsed by Houston’s eight mayoral candidates and former President George H.W. Bush, a Houston resident.
In a letter addressed to Floyd Lewis, presiding bishop of the International Church Fellowship, who championed the “Thumbs Up! Domestic Soldiers” campaign, which predated the Pray for Police movement, Bush said, “At a time when it seems to be fashionable to attack the motives and character of the men and women who comprise our law enforcement agencies across America, I think the work you and your colleagues are doing may be more important than ever.”
The call to prayer comes in the turbulent wake of the murder of Harris County Sheriff Deputy Darren Goforth who was shot and killed Aug. 28 at a gas station while filling his patrol car. The man charged in the shooting, Shannon Miles, appeared to have targeted the uniformed deputy simply because he was an officer, shooting him 15 times in the back.
The incident shocked and galvanized this southeast Texas region of 4.3 million residents, prompting marches and prayer vigils at the site of the shooting and an outpouring of sympathy that drew more than 11,000 people to Goforth’s funeral at Second Baptist Church in Houston last week. His murder was the most recent and brutal manifestation of tensions between some citizens and law enforcement nationwide.
Drawing from 2 Chronicles 7:14, Monty Montgomery, Houston Police Department (HPD) senior police officer and chaplain, opened a Sept. 8 press conference with prayer surrounded by law enforcement officers, clergy and elected officials.
Montgomery, who also pastors a local church in Houston, told the Southern Baptist TEXAN Goforth’s murder has impacted the way many officers do their jobs.
“Goforth was doing something we all do every day. It changes the focus of our officers,” Montgomery said. “We are reacting to calls differently than we did before.”
Officers recognize the inherent danger associated with their work, but the blatant and seemingly unprovoked shooting of Goforth raises fears not for themselves but their families should they be killed in the line of duty, Montgomery said.
“Every single day they don’t know if they’re going to be able to come home to their families or not,” Devon Anderson, Harris County District Attorney, said during the press conference. “Every car they pull over, every door they approach, they know that may be the last person they see on this earth. So we need to pray for them. They deserve our prayers.” Anderson said she will lead the prosecution against Miles, who has been charged with capital murder.
Mayor Annise Parker spoke of the funerals she has attended during her 18 years of City of Houston public service. “Never again” was Parker’s commitment following every meeting with the families of police, firefighters and other public employees killed in the line of duty. But, sadly, there was always another funeral.
Echoing the hope that the Pray for Police campaign take on a life of its own, Parker said, “Let it start here. Let it start now. Let it start in Houston.”
Charles McClelland Jr., HPD police chief, said, “This showing here today reaffirms in my mind the commitment and the support of this community. And I know the silent majority has always been in the corner of law enforcement.”
“This is uniting our community,” said Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman. “We have a groundswell of support unlike anything I’ve seen in decades. It’s so assuring and reaffirming to be supported by our local communities.”
McClelland and Hickman spoke of their faith when addressing reporters. Each noted they keep a Bible in their offices. Hickman said, “In the past few weeks it’s gotten a little use.”