An uptick in anti-police sentiment has grabbed national headlines recently, and it’s also left some serious questions in the hearts of law enforcement officials.
“Many good police officers are considering resigning or taking early retirement because of the treatment they are receiving,” Franklin Graham said in a recent Facebook post. “Many are asking themselves—Why am I risking my life and having people hate me for it?”
David Rutledge, manager of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team‘s law enforcement ministry, recently met with police officers in western North Carolina. They voiced similar concerns, and he listened as they shared their hearts.
Billy Graham’s Answer
A Christian police officer once asked Mr. Graham how he could fight discouragement. In his Biblical response, Graham reminded the officer, “If God has called you to this position, thank Him and ask Him to help you be the best policeman possible.”
“Every police officer that I know was outraged at what that officer did to George Floyd up in Minneapolis,” Rutledge said, adding that officers safeguarding the demonstrations often agree with the stance of protesters. Yet, some of those same police are on the receiving end of activists’ anger.
“It’s really tough on them right now,” Rutledge said. “I would not be surprised at least for the near-term future to see a lot of retirements and to see a lot of departments having vacancies and having a lot of trouble filling those vacancies.”
Working in law enforcement is demanding no matter the assignment, and in 2020, it carries the personal risk of contracting COVID-19. As of July 7, the Officer Down Memorial Page noted a 38 percent increase in line of duty deaths. Fifty-one of the current 116 fatalities are due to the coronavirus. Unpredictable exposure to a deadly virus combined with a drop in public sentiment simply make the job even harder.
Rutledge retired after 30 years with the Asheville Police Department. He lived some of those challenges, and he can’t fathom taking on the call of police work without being rooted in the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. That is the difference-maker.
Rutledge said he would encourage officers in two primary ways:
First, he would caution officers against making any big decisions in the heat of the moment. Hold off on that resignation letter just yet.
“You’re called to do this job, and it’s worth doing,” Rutledge said.
Second, don’t focus entirely on the here and now. Ephesians 6:12 states, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
“There is an eternal dimension to this,” Rutledge said. “I think we’re dealing not just with warfare so to speak in the natural, but I think there’s a real spiritual warfare component going on here. Stand strong and understand the way to survive, if you will, or the best way to flourish in this career is to have that relationship with Jesus. Without that, it’s hard mentally and spiritually to survive it.”
“Make that [relationship with Christ] paramount in your life because that’s going to be the key.”
Civilians also have a role to play, Franklin Graham mentioned in his Facebook post.
“We need to pray for them, and we need to encourage them,” Franklin Graham said. “When you see a police officer, make sure to smile, wave, give them the thumbs up, or even say ‘God bless you’ as you go by. Let them know they are appreciated and you are praying for them.
“The Bible says, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers… (Matthew 5:9)’. This is the calling many of them have answered with their lives.”
Please pray for law enforcement officials and the communities they serve. Also pray for the Rapid Response Team’s ongoing response.