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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

An Interview With a Christian Cop

I have been recently blessed with a new acquaintance at the sheriff’s office, a detective who is studying to become a minister. We’ve had a number of conversations about our mutual faith. This very nice man has graciously agreed to this interview for our Keep Me In Suspense readers.

Here are the questions posed by the Keep Me in Suspense Team, along with the detective’s answers:

What, if any, problems do you face being a Christian in your job?

My Christianity is not a problem for me on the job here, but it did require some adjustments, especially when I moved from patrol, where I was alone a great deal of the time, to the office environment of the detectives.

I wasn’t accustomed to some of the worst profanity and dirty jokes. My first reaction was to stop hanging out with everyone. I even went out to lunch by myself to avoid being uncomfortable. But, I soon realized that I couldn’t have an effect on people unless I was around them. Jesus hung with people that needed to be reached, and that’s what God required of me. He reminded me that a well person doesn’t need a physician.

The one thing I did to make things a little easier for me was to pull aside the very worst mouthed detective and talk to him. But I was very careful how I handled that. I didn’t want to come across as holier than everyone or condemning. Basically I said, I don’t want to tell you how to live your life, but I want you to know that I’m uncomfortable with some of your language and your jokes.

Since I made that approach in kindness, without judging the person, he took it well and apologized. Soon, that person told other people, and though the changes didn’t happen overnight, a change did occur. Soon, if someone was cussing outrageously, they would apologize to me.

Years later, I started the Officers for Christ Bible Study. When I look back, I realize that if I’d been a closet Christian, hiding from everyone to protect myself, I would have been hindered in my endeavor. But I didn’t hide my Christianity and instead related to people where they were. Officers for Christ is now very successful.

God put me here to minister to people. Because I don’t bang people over the head with the Bible, but love them where they are, people can receive God's love from me.

Do you find it difficult to maintain your faith on a day to day basis with the job you have, or does it actually make it easier on some level?

Being a Christian is a lifestyle, not something I put on and take off, like a hat. I’m the same man at church that I am at home that I am on the job. This job is what God has provided for me to make a living. It’s the vineyard where He’s given me to work. Since God gave me the job, God equips me to do it. So, in a sense, yes, my faith does help.

Have you ever shared your faith with someone you've arrested?

I pray for open doors to share my faith with them, as well as victims of crimes. I do have to be careful in some senses. I don’t want a complaint lodged against me, so I don’t arbitrarily beat people over the head with the Gospel. Instead, I trust God to open doors for me to talk to the people He wants me to talk to. And God does. For example, I might be in someone’s house and see magnets on the refrigerator about God, so I’ll use that as a springboard to initiate a conversation about the Lord.

Do we need more Christians in law enforcement?

We need Christian leaders—period. Not just policemen. We need Godly leadership in government who operate on Christian principles on the national, state, and local levels. And our Christian leaders must be Godly people, because it flows from the head, down. From the church, down.

Do you see a high level of burn out in your line of work?

Burn out first depends upon the agency where you work. If the agency is supportive, there will be less burn out. Like any job, cop burn out can depend upon how long you’ve been doing the job. You sometimes just get in a rut. Sometimes personnel changes can affect things. And often, burn out doesn’t just have to do with the job. Home, health, and other activities play a role.

Burn out also depends upon your position. Narcs are probably in more of a position to burn out than anyone else. They are undercover, portraying a person they really aren’t. Our agency checks on officers once a year to make sure they’re okay.

What about cynicism?

Younger cops are more cynical. They haven’t been supervisors. Age, experience, and family tends to mellow people.

How do you deal with the dark side of life?

Pray. God gave me the job. He’ll give me the grace to do it.

I pray that people get saved. That some good will come from tragedy. I pray for the guilty, as well as the victims.

I think the death of children and young people is the hardest to see, but God takes care of the things in my head. The memories fade. I’m not haunted by them. More than anything else, I don’t take my job personally. It’s a job. If I were affected by what I see, I wouldn’t be able to do my job. I have to be able to move on to the next person. If I let things get to me, I can’t help anybody.

And because I handle everyone fairly, including the criminals, they tend to like me, even though I’ve arrested them.

As a Christian do you tend to follow the rules by the book or do you allow grace to operate in each decision when dealing with people in precarious circumstances?

I follow the rules by the book. That’s part of my job and the boundaries I’ve been given. If I don’t follow the rules, I could be disciplined or fired.

But, if there’s an opportunity for me to go the extra mile while I’m working, I will. For instance, I’m not required by the department to give a ride home to someone involved in an incident. But, if I can, I will. As grace has been given to me, so I want to give grace to others.


*****

I’m so grateful for the time this detective took to give me this interview. We’ve had so much fun laughing, as well as fellowshipping. I can truly see God’s hand on his life.

Stay tuned for Friday’s article, Hey, What’s in that Car, Anyway?

4 Comments:

Blogger super girl said...

Thanks for this great interview. Good stuff.

I'm working on a couple books now. May or may not involve FBI agents (again).

Have you ever interviewed anyone in the FBI?

12:49 PM  
Blogger Candice Speare said...

You're welcome for the interview. I enjoyed doing it. No, none of us is real familiar with the FBI. I don't think any of us has ever interviewed an FBI agent. I'm sorry. I'll keep my ears open, though. Candice

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

GQ I am currently going through the process of becoming a police officer but the question about "I am able to take a life in the line of duty" and still be a chritian has come up in my mind. Any thoughts?

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, congratulations on becoming a police officer. I am a Christian and a former police officer with almost 5 years of patrol experience, and I mulled over the same question. Here's what I came up with: The Lord provided this job to me. For as long as I have this job, my responsibility is to perform my duties in accordance with department policy, local, state and federal laws, one of which may include an action that could cost the life of another human. My take on this, and I hope this part will answer your question, is that if I ever had to defend myself or another innocent person in a manner that would take the life of another, IT WAS NOT MY CHOICE BUT THE CHOICE OF THAT PERSON.... AND... I believe that has no bearing whatsoever on your Christian Faith. The result of your action, although tragic, would be legal, justified and most importantly, "okay" with God. I never had to fire my weapon in the line of duty but I certainly presented it and even pointed it at several people. Keep Jesus #1 in your everyday life, even at work, and actually trust the Holy Spirit to guide you in everything you do, even the small things. You'll do fine. It can be a very rewarding career if you allow it to be. I left on good terms to pursue other opportunities but will miss it forever.
God Bless!

6:01 PM  

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