Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIVUK)
How can I be a police officer and a Christian at the same time?
These are the questions I asked myself shortly after I realised that God was real. One afternoon I was in a locker room at a police station getting changed into my uniform, as I put my epaulettes on my shoulders I caught sight of myself in a mirror.
As I was putting my uniform on – making clear for all to see my identity as a police officer, I realised that I was removing my identity in Christ. This realisation stunned me, I was new to faith, and this was perhaps my first hurdle – and I’m glad I saw it! It caused me to pray for help to figure out how to be a police officer whose identity was firmly rooted as a follower and servant of Christ. Very soon after that prayer, a chain of events occurred that ultimately led me to where I am today, the leader of the London Christian Police Family.
Recently I’ve been contemplating some of the many conversations that I have had in the years that followed with officers and staff who keep their faith secret from their colleagues. Sometimes they are discreet because they fear what their peers will think of them if they are known as a believer, or sometimes because they haven’t yet figured out how to wear both hats at the same time. This contemplation led me to remember afresh – that experience I had as I caught a glance of myself. That hurdle became one of the foundational moments in my Christian faith.
Whether you’re a new Christian or a new police officer, whether you’re nervous of what others think of you, or like me were trying to figure out how to integrate the Christian faith into the demands of the police service, I hope that you find this post useful.
Every situation and person is different, so it’s safe to say that I’d be writing outside of my experience and competence if I wrote trying to claim that this post will somehow cover every scenario that you could encounter. That is not the purpose of this writing. I am writing about competence, courage, and commitment as I believe that each of these skills are needed to build a strong foundation for successfully integrating faith with your role in the Police service.
Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.
When I was first promoted to the rank of Inspector, officers started addressing me as Sir, new recruits would stand when I entered a room and occasionally a new recruit who hadn’t got the message that we no longer do this outside of the artificial world of basic training would salute me.
It was pretty obvious to me that they weren’t calling me Sir because they respected me as an individual police officer. They were merely showing deference to the rank or the authority that the rank I hold affords me. Perhaps the primary reason was – as we’re a disciplined service – they had been told that’s what they must do.
During my time in the service I have witnessed newly promoted officers of various ranks mistake respect for rank with respect for them as a person. I have watched some of them go a bit power crazy and/or make a fool of themselves as a result. Earning true respect as a police officer of any rank only really comes by routinely demonstrating competence and commitment.
We all like working with competent professionals, people who give it their all. It is inspiring and encouraging to be with them. So keep up-to-date with training, focus on continuing professional development and seek out opportunities to address areas you identify could be better. Your competence as a police officer will grow and grow.
What makes Christians in the police service different?
As Christians we also have to demonstrate competence in our faith. Competence in the standards of Christian morality we uphold and in allowing God to do His work through us. Even if that means we have to go in a direction we’d rather not. If you aren’t yet ready to talk to others about the faith– start asking the question privately to yourself “What makes Christians in the police service different?” Take time out to pray in private when you can, at other times, silently if necessary, pray while on patrol, when you’re on your way to an emergency or about to start a difficult meeting. Read the bible, and start preparing an answer.
Christians should be different. We’re the salt and the light, a people who hold grace, love and forgiveness in our hearts. We’re a people who seeks God’s wisdom instead of our own. Just by preparing an answer to the above question, we will begin to exude competence and a gentle confidence. This is worlds apart from the arrogance that can sometimes accompany the confusion of respect for rank with respect for the individual.
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love
1 Corinthians 16:13-14
Throughout your career you will face many challenging and difficult situations, out on the streets protecting people and intervening in dangerous situations, or internally – being witness to, or managing behaviour which falls short of the required standard. As a Christian, and as a police officer, people internal and external to the police service are watching to see how you will respond.
It isn’t good enough simply to tow the line, or respond how peers or your team members would. Be strong and courageous as you do the right thing—not the popular or easy thing. It takes courage to make the right calls, and as believers in Jesus Christ, we are called to be the salt and shining light in a dark world.
This could apply to officers and staff of any rank or grade, but while on temporary promotion to Sergeant many years ago I quickly discovered that often the silent majority on a team privately want people in leadership positions to take action to improve a situation or the performance or behaviour of an individual. Often colleagues remain silent, not overtly criticising someone who behaves poorly, but despite their silence are desperate for someone to intervene.
If you are a Christian, that someone should, with prayer, be you. If you hold rank or a leadership position, then that person is you. If are a Christian and hold a leadership position then………
Be bold and courageous
When courage is required to complete a task properly, it can seem daunting, but being courageous is often key to being truly respected and often the missing link in developing a team into a highly effective one.
My hardest moment in the police service from an internal perspective was as an Inspector who was faced with a decision as to whether to arrest one of my own officers during a night shift. A credible allegation was made by one of my team that they had witnessed this officer commit a crime. I was distraught at potentially having to arrest one of my own team, and that he could have behaved in that way. He was popular with the team, and I liked him too. Clearly as with any allegation I made a determination of the evidence, but because of the serious implications to his reputation and career if I got it wrong (we wouldn’t be able to keep it confidential – as lots of officers across the met would recognise him in the cells) I had extra considerations.
To make sure my decisions around this would be correct, in addition to waking up the on call professional standards superintendent and seeking his advice, I went and prayed in private. When I was finished I knew what needed to be done, and knew that whether or not people liked what I had decided to do wasn’t relevant. I ordered one of my sergeants to arrest him. He ended up being charged with a crime, and no longer works as a police officer. This was with no doubt devastating for him, but was exactly the right outcome, and nipped what could have become a pattern of criminal behaviour by someone wearing the uniform firmly in the bud.
The news of his arrest spread like wildfire around the Met, I heard positive comments about my decision, and also some negative ones. Years later I still occasionally hear someone’s view on the matter, generally more positive ones now. With hindsight it was clearly the right thing to do, but at the time the pressure was making me waver. Looking back at the then fairly inexperienced Inspector that I was, I might have not arrested him had it not been for the time of prayer. Had that been the case, some evidence gathered through the arrest process would have been lost, and he may still be in the service today.
The Christian commitment we make to serve Christ demands that we carry the cross, even if we’re fearful of what others will think. Are you facing a decision and fear a negative perception by making the right choice? If so – remember Acts 21:10-15
“After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, ‘The Holy Spirit says, “In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.”
When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, ‘Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’ When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, ‘The Lord’s will be done.’
After this, we started on our way up to Jerusalem. Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples.
Paul did not have the agreement of his peers over his decision to go to Jerusalem. His closest advisors begged him to reconsider the decision to leave. Paul was going to be handed over to the Roman authorities. When they begged him not to go, they were not searching for the will of God, but rather their own desire to remain with Paul. Did they think they were hearing from God? Certainly! But they were wrong, no matter how sincere they were. They just wanted things to continue the way they were.
The key is seeking God’s will from the Holy Spirit before making decisions and then continuing to pray if or when the pressure on you grows. When facing an unpopular decision remember that while seeking counsel is important – unity among people does not automatically mean it is God’s will.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters
We have loyalty to our friends our family and our colleagues, we’re loyal to many people. However, when faced with conflicting loyalty it’s essential to ask where your ultimate and unwavering loyalty needs to sit.
Along with competence and courage, you must be committed to the Christian mission. Where does your loyalty rest? Are you loyally tackling a problem in society? Does your loyalty lie in the mission of the police service as a whole? When colleagues on your team look at you, are they seeing someone they can trust? Do they see someone they know will have their back, and who puts the task in hand ahead of their own agenda? I hope so. However, commitment to the Christian mission also means something much more. If there’s a conflict of loyalty – do you put God’s will above all?
Do others see Christ in you through your commitment to Him? Do they know you’re a Christian? Will they know whom you serve by the way you treat them and others?
If you’re not yet ready to make the step of being open about your faith in work, please pray to God for help, and get in touch with us. We can meet you in private to talk and pray things through. You are not alone – LCPF will come alongside you as you run the race with perseverance, and fight the good fight of the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession before many witnesses.
1 Timothy 6:12
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