Faith and Blue: Policing and Higher Power

Faith and Blue: Policing and Higher Power

By Stephen Owsinski

The annual Faith and Blue weekend transpired recently, with community members and the clergy meeting and praying over cops and forging formidable bonds.

Among many just like it, the following gratitude for cops’ blessings was published by the Whittier Police Department crimefighters: “Happy Faith and Blue Weekend! We are thankful to all of our religious organizations and churches in Whittier and Santa Fe Springs for their continued support of our police department!”

(Photo courtesy of the Whittier Police Department.)

Somewhat coinciding with Faith and Blue, the folks at Project Humanize posted a poll a few days ago, asking, “How important is your faith in a Higher Power as a police officer?” To that query, the answers and reasonings were mixed.

Mere days prior, I gazed at a painting consisting of mostly blue uniforms —a huddle of cops praying after losing two of their own in a spray of bullets directed by absolute evil— the artwork donated by a skilled painter who embraces the police and heralds their steadfastness in fighting the good fight.

Lord knows America’s cops have been navigating unprecedented hatred permeating society, some of it internal, such as from the hamstringing lawmakers who author legal doctrines for cops to enforce (or not, leaving the public on the hook).

With that, we have this from the folks at Bibles for LEOs: “Start and end your day with prayer. Allow God to use you powerfully as you are on your shift. He will guide you and lead you to those who need you. “Don’t forget you are called by God to be a blessing and to protect the vulnerable and the weak. May God bless your steps as you protect and serve. He will watch over you as you go in and out.”

Via an ongoing offering, Bibles for LEO folks fashioned “outreach kits” to be gifted to all law enforcement officers in our nation, helping them to navigate the sordid society by directions provided by the spiritual compass contained throughout the Good Book.

(Photo courtesy of Bibles for LEOs.)

Years ago, a police cohort sat with me and exhibited a downtrodden persona quite different than his normal balanced, peaceful, reserved state: a great cop, strong in faith. His question to me was, “How do you go through what you are going through and not get mad at God?”

I wasn’t prepared for that. At the time, though, I knew he was on light duty due to a life-threatening diagnosis, compounded by rumors and rumblings that our police administration was planning to let him go (seeing no potential of an eventual return to full-active duty).

I recall struggling to offer a suitable reply. I did first acknowledge that I was mad at God at one point in time (ongoing cancer woes threatening my police career), but I also shared how I reconciled my angst by delving deeper into the Bible. My response was from a cancer hospital bed; my law enforcement career concluded by the same police administration seeking to decommission him for similar circumstances.

Those were aspects unique to policing. It struck me that he was concerned about losing his role as a first responder and not necessarily how being one is undeniably life-threatening. Says much about the composition of heroes.

In general, law enforcement officers witness the worst, unimaginable afflictions thrust by humans against humans. As a cop, I found that most colleagues did not express much about spirituality…just went from call to call.

The Proud Police Wife site (with a book and podcast by the same name) recently explored this nuance in law enforcement:

“Police officers know this is part of the job. But it doesn’t mean it’s an easy part. All first responders deal with this and have no choice but to keep going. I personally couldn’t imagine seeing dead people, horrific accidents, child crimes, etc., and having to move to the next call or scene like it didn’t happen.

“This is why they need support, resources, and mental health services. This is why it needs to be acknowledged and talked about. We can NOT just say ‘Well, it’s part of their job’ or ‘they seem fine.’ We need to do more. Departments need to do more.”

Indeed, it is a ton to walk in their shoes, largely non-stop. Thus, mitigation is a must.

From the pages of Project Humanize, we have an anonymously written letter (accompanied by a pertinent portrayal) imploring law enforcement officers to engender a Higher Power, putting all the atrocities haphazardly stacking in their brains and burdening their hearts…in His hands:

“I wanted to send a photo I hoped you may post to Project Humanize. It’s 3 officers from an area of Virginia kneeling at the alter during a service. I know it can be hard for LEOs to trust (for obvious reasons) and show their sensitive side, and a side that does need help even if it’s from God, because of the stigma of needing help means ‘unfit for duty’—not true as we know.

“I hope you can share this photo […] I think this photo is powerful as it shows LEOs it is okay to trust in God and ask for His help, and show it—that is not weakness.”

(Photo courtesy of Project Humanize.)

Similar to the U.S. Marine Corps, recruits from all corners are broken down and homogenized to be formidable figures in fights against wrongdoers inflicting evil intent. Warriors are squared away; peacekeepers who can adapt if/when monsters show up.

In the police academy, most cadets do not wear any kind of jewelry or bling (other than a break-away watch). Law enforcement officer-instructors pinned the jewelry-free mantra on the fact that any unnecessary hardware ought to be refrained…especially since the duty belt is heavily laden with enough accouterments to choke a Jurassic Park inhabitant. (“Any extras could work against you.”)

During my day and night shift rotations during which I was indoctrinated in the principles of policing by my assigned field training officer (FTO), other than one squad supervisor who always pinned a gold cross to his breast pocket flap, police colleagues only donned the essentials (heeding “officer safety” advice).

My favorite police chief (who became a pastor when he retired from law enforcement) also wore a gold cross on his uniform. In its “Uniform Code” stipulations, the agency had no rule against displaying religious symbolism…but that was long ago, well before the nation’s super-sensitive sorts demanded “In God We Trust” graphics be removed from police cruisers (many of whom got their wish).

Heat-sealed in a tiny 1”X1” Ziploc plastic pouch, I kept a small gold cross my mom gave me as a young boy. When in uniform anywhere, that gold cross was always tucked in my ballistic vest pocket—another layer of protection, an Almighty one.

Strapped in my cruiser’s front passenger seat, my duty bag housed my Policeman’s Bible, a gift given me when I was sworn in…and still use.

I was reminded of that Bible today when I reviewed the latest posts on the Bibles for LEO site. One post portrayed a circle of South Bend Police Department officers, all of whom were joined in prayer by a woman named Kathy, a shopper who was ticking off items on her grocery list when she observed a squad of cops carting products for a Back-to-School Cookout they were offering to the community.

“As officers from our Strategic Focus Unit were shopping for Friday’s Back-to-School Cookout this afternoon, they were approached by a woman named Kathy.

“Kathy had just one request – to pray for our officers’ safety.

“Our officers then formed a circle and joined hands with Kathy as she prayed over them – right in the middle of Walmart. Thank you for offering this moment of peace for our officers today, Kathy.”

(Photo courtesy of the South Bend Police Department.)

Even the young ones know the value of prayer, and laying hands on officers. Confront our society’s evildoers can always use blessings throughout myriad duties every shift.

“[On the] morning [of March 12, 2023] Police Officer First Class Williams took the time to allow Cherrelle (age 4) to pray.

“Cherrelle was upset that she wasn’t afforded a chance to pray. POFC Williams saw her upset, asked her why she was crying, and she responded, ‘I want to pray.’ POFC Williams then dropped to one knee and allowed her to pray right on the spot with him.

“These are the moments we like to spotlight as we work to continue building trust within our communities.”

(Photo courtesy of the Forest Heights Police Department.)

We have seen cops who are prayed for by another. We also saw a cop who prays with another. Now we look at cops who pray over another in need.

Police-supporting citizens like Kathy illustrate examples of cops praying with those they serve. On the other end of the spectrum are folks who see the bona fide safety and sanctity provided by law enforcement officers, requesting prayerful solidarity.

(Photo courtesy of Police Supporters via First Responder Benefit Association.)

According to FRBA, this man “walked up to a Columbia County Sheriff’s Office Deputy and asked him if he could Pray for him! This is powerful!”

We close with words of encouragement from the prayerful, police-supporting ladies of Blue Light Cause:

“We just want to take the time to remind our Heroes God is with you and He is for YOU (Romans 8:31) Don’t give up! There is a commUNITY including Blue Light Cause that loves, supports, and greatly appreciates each one of you. Keep going forward because YOU make a difference in this world. We are so grateful for each one of you. We have and will continue to pray for all our Heroes. God Bless You All Always!”

One last layer to cover is the fleet of police vessels that transport public safety pros: co-dependent and able with a blessing in the skies handed down to the ground troops, where their mobile offices are parked in the police compound.

(Photo courtesy of Lt. Steven Dearth, Hingham Police Department.)

That image was recorded “When Father Sinisa Ubiparipovic offered to come to bless the fleet in 2015. I’d never seen that done before and so many off-duty officers came by. All our marked, unmarked, bikes & motorcycles” were blessed.