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Police chief convenes group to discuss racial tensions

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Interim Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Kevin Davis, right, speaks alongside Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake at a news conference after Rawlings-Blake announced her firing of Commissioner Anthony Batts, July 8, 2015, in Baltimore, Maryland (Credit: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

“Too many continue to die on our streets, including three just last night and one lost earlier today.  Families are tired of feeling this pain, and so am I.  We need a change.”

So stated Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in announcing that she has fired Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts.  Homicides in her city reached a 25-year high in May when 42 people were killed.  In June, 31 were murdered.  The mayor’s decision was applauded by many church and political leaders.  One pastor believes the decision will “start the process of healing between the community and the police department.”

Has it ever been more difficult to serve in law enforcement than it is today?

Police officers are given the responsibility and authority for maintaining public order and safety.  They are also expected to engage with citizens, solve problems, and represent those they serve.  There are more than 17,000 state and local law enforcement agencies in America.  The vast majority generate no headlines beyond the crimes to which they respond.

Unfortunately, the failings of a few taint the reputation and service of the many.  And ethnic tensions in our culture exacerbate the difficulty of their jobs.

Tomorrow night, I will be speaking to a gathering of police officers in the Dallas area.  A local police chief is convening the event, which is intended to help his colleagues understand better the racial and cultural challenges of our day and encourage them in their lives and work.  Please pray for God to use our gathering for his glory.

In preparing my remarks to the officers, I have been reflecting on a recent week spent in England.  It was my privilege to teach a doctoral seminar on leadership for Dallas Baptist University at Oxford University.  While there, we spent a session focusing on the life and legacy of Winston Churchill.  In the midst of the challenges police officers face today, these statements from the prime minister seem appropriate and encouraging:

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”  It would be easy for law enforcement professionals to find another profession.  But we need them at their post, securing our safety and protecting our culture.

“Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.”  Everyday acts of service most reveal our integrity and define our legacy.  The unsung and unseen work of police officers and other public servants deserves our gratitude each day.

“Never give in—never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”  When serving a noble cause, it is always too soon to quit. (Tweet this)

According to Paul, the Lord Jesus taught that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).  Those who serve us as police officers risk their lives every day and give far more than they receive.  I am praying today for their safety, fortitude, and effectiveness.  Please join me.