The Real World
By Officer Nathan Bickerstaffe
In spite of all their training, new officers experience a revelation when they go into the field. There is a dark side to humanity, and law enforcement personnel experience it up close and personally. The average citizen may feel that just because they watch “Cops” on a regular basis, they have an understanding of what officers’ lives are like.
The truth is, no amount of training, book reading or TV watching can prepare an officer for his or her first domestic abuse call where a woman or child has been severely beaten.
Even the most experienced officers will dread working a violent automobile accident scene. News footage can’t adequately portray the utter despair and anguish witnessed when an officer has to tell the parents of a missing teenager that their daughter’s sexually assaulted body has been found. Nothing can prepare someone for the smells experienced when a drug user’s body is found three days after overdosing, or an elderly person has died alone in their apartment.
Even in small town America, law enforcement officers will see and experience things that law abiding members of their community can’t or don’t want to imagine. There is a reason that only a select few are chosen to enter the law enforcement profession. Most people simply wouldn’t be up to the task. Experiencing the dark side of humanity takes its toll on many officers. For a few, it manifests itself in how they view the world in which they work, and can even change behavior patterns over an extended period of time.
The Dark Side
There are many theories given for why an officer goes “bad,” but the most prevalent one seems to be based on the darkness and temptations officers are exposed to on the streets.
Criminals will tempt members of law enforcement. Someone selling marijuana might say to an officer, “It’s just weed, it’s not like I’m selling crack or meth,” and then offer to give the officer a cut for overlooking their sales efforts. Or they might say, “It’s just gambling (or prostitution); who’s getting hurt? Can’t you look the other way? I’ll make it worth your while.”
What about when an undercover officer goes into the apartment of a drug dealer and finds thousands of dollars in cash that no one could ever account for and stuffs some of it in his uniform? After all, it’s not really stealing, is it? It’s just drug money. With all the evil they see, a few officers might consider these examples to be the least of all the problems they have to deal with.
As you read this, however, you probably see that the right thing to do is very obvious. That’s true. Remember, however, that decisions often get made in a heartbeat, and that’s exactly why ethics training is so important. When you don’t have time to think, you have to instinctively know the right thing to do, and act on that knowledge, no matter how bad things are in the world in which you work. Both initial and ongoing training help you act in the correct manner instinctively, every time.
Why Good People Make Bad Decisions
The good news is that the great majority of officers make the right decisions because their ethical foundation is sound. Unfortunately, the few that make bad decisions are often the ones that make the headlines as well, and their improprieties tarnish the reputation of their fellow officers.
The point to be made is that as a law enforcement officer, you will find yourself in ethically challenging situations unlike any other profession, and how you weather those situations will depend on the strength of your foundation. That foundation is the code of ethics that your career is grounded in.
However, the Christian cop should not be discouraged. They have a very powerful tool and an armor they carry with them that others do not. That tool is prayer and the armor is from God. Prayer is powerful and the Holy Spirit can do what they cannot. If you are an officer that feels smothered in the sin and sorrow of the world, stand back, pray, and watch what the strength of the Lord can accomplish.
God tells us in Isaiah 40:31, “..but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
If you start to drown, reach out to other Christians, such as a Pastor or friend. Know there are other officers that feel the same way and you cannot save all the people of the world. But one soul you can nurture is your own and through that you can make a difference.
Just doing your job can make an impact on others. You may be unaware of the good works which God has set forth for you to do. In Ephesians 2:10 He tells us: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."
God chose this profession for you; He can work through you without your help. All you need to do is feed and nurture your faith and keep it growing. Be strong in your faith because the path of the Christian Cop is a hard beat to walk.
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