Law enforcement personnel have stressful jobs. For the sake of this post, I’ll include sheriffs, highway patrol officers, and police officers as “local law enforcement.”
In light of the tumultuous issues surrounding law enforcement these days, Anti-Racism Training opportunities are everywhere. (Please tell me you are taking advantage of them: the podcasts, books, panel discussions, training, etc.) Yesterday, one of those opportunities was a webinar sponsored by Massanetta Springs Conference Center called Racism, Law Enforcement, and the Church featuring Alonzo Johnson, Byron Wade, and Denise Anderson. Part Two happens today. And thanks to Mary Newbern-Williams for moderating the program.
One of the questions asked was: What is the Mission of Police?
- To protect and serve?
- To control crowds?
- To rescue people?
- To arrest people?
- To teach community safety?
- To resolve domestic conflicts?
- To break up fights?
- To check out neighborhood “annoyances”?
- To guard schools?
- To find bad guys?
- To inspect people in their cars or on the streets?
- To address mental health issues?
And a second question is: What role does the Church have in partnering with law enforcement?
There are congregations who’ve invited police officers to come help them ramp up their security measures in light of church shootings and this is not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about partnering with law enforcement in regards to mission and ministry. For many years, I’ve advised church leaders to contact their local law enforcement leaders and meet for coffee, and then ask the officers: “What do you do all day?”
Churches: we might be surprised to find out how law enforcement officers spend their days. Are most of their calls regarding domestic violence? Drug addiction? Runaway kids? These specifics are important for local churches to know because they can work with the police to provide support for neighbors in need like:
- Provide shelter for victims of trafficking and domestic abuse.
- Provide needle collection sites for the disposal of needles.
- Provide space for teaching harm reduction.
- Provide support for the families of both crime victims and perpetrators.
Imagine the community that could be built if relationships between law enforcement and houses of faith were stronger. In rural communities and suburbs and inner cities, personal relationships and partnerships could also improve violence rates where we live.
Law enforcement has some tragic history in the United States when we consider the early slave patrols. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The 21st Century Church must be familiar with their neighbors in law enforcement for the sake of expanding the reign of God.