Police, Justice, and a “Just” America

Last month Pastor Efrem Smith posted the following the arrest of Dr. Gates.  

I’m With Dr. Gates and You Should be Too.

this is in response……

Only about 10 – 15 years ago I always felt a check in my spirit every time I heard an African-American complain about police harassment. I mean, we all know, “the police are our friends” and we have no reason to fear them unless we “did something wrong”.


I used to believe this, and felt it deep in my soul, until my soul became co-mingled with non-whites. I have experienced and observed first hand the kinds of police abuse both Pastor Efrem and Dr. Gates have experienced, only because of being with African – Americans (latinos, or others) and because we share community and live in solidarity.


It is racial, it is class, it is unjust.


A few examples:

I have been cuffed, and put in the back of a police car for no reason – and later given no apology, (even after my car had been riffled through).

I have been victimized by police who stopped a friend and I (again for no reason). They yelled in our face and threatened “GET BACK IN YOUR CAR, BEFORE I PUT YOU IN THE BACK OF MY CAR” – when I was just going to work with my black co-worker.  

I have also seen how I, or my son (also white) can drive our can for months with one headlight out, but the night I loan the car to an African-American friend he gets stopped and harassed.


Police do play an important role in society, I usually appreciate their sacrifice and service. I do not excuse everything Dr. Gates did, but I can easily understand loosing one’s cool when you see so many officers misuse their power so frequently.

If I were in the wrong place, on the wrong day, I could be the one being arrested. A few weeks ago in one of the situations described above I said to myself, “If they think they can tow this car on an illegal stop, they will have to take me with it.” They didn’t tow it. I didn’t get arrested. But do I serve a Jesus who overturned tables in the temple to point out gross injustice.  


Part of the problem is that many police officers do not normally see minorities (and their communities) in a positive light. I served for over 13 years as a police chaplain, I was constantly shocked at how well the police knew of the evil in my community, but seldom knew about all the good neighbors and great places. They always claimed to know where drugs were served, but did not seem have a clue who watched out for neighbor kids in trouble. Finally, just because Officer Crowley teaches diversity training does not mean that he couldn’t fall into prejudice anymore than a pastor who preaches against adultery could not wind up cheating on his wife.


Many of us euro-americans cannot believe police would be anything but fair as they represent the values of a country based on fairness and justice. But then, has America always represented fairness and justice to all? No? Perhaps this is the deeper reason many can NOT, (on emotional and philosophical grounds) accept that the police could be unjust: If police can display a lack of fairness and justice, then perhaps the myth of a perfectly fair and just America begins to disintegrate.


Perhaps, as Christians we need to trust in a just GOD and not in a just society. Perhaps, we need to be as the body of Christ, a reflection of justice and not an extension of the political rhetoric we absorb.


Perhaps, we need more beer summits and less political demagogy?

One thought on “Police, Justice, and a “Just” America”

Leave a Reply to ariah Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s