I Wanna Be a Policeman

Police Officer

© John Roman - 123rf.com

[PART 4 OF 6]

What are the implications of this concept of “the sanctity of human life”?

Does that mean that it is wrong for a Christian to serve as a police officer?

If a police officer were to use deadly force and take the life of another person in the line of duty, would he or she be guilty of murder? Would he or she have violated the sanctity of human life?

The same biblical principles apply here as were discussed in answer to the question of capital punishment. Police officers are agents of the governing authorities, whether at the city, county, state, or federal level. As agents of the government, they are simply one of the tools used by the government to exercise its God-ordained governing power.

As a general rule, good law-abiding citizens have no reason to fear police officers. Those who would break the law and do evil should fear police officers, because police officers are simply the agents used by the government to punish evil-doers.

Is it possible for a police officer to be corrupt and to abuse his or her power? Yes, and it happens every day. Just like the dictator who abuses the power of government, the police officer who abuses his power will stand accountable before God. But the fact that there are police officers who abuse their power does not negate the fact that police officers are simply agents of the God-ordained government, and as such have God’s blessings in carrying out the function of their job.

So, if a police officer takes the life of another human being in the line of duty, he has not necessarily violated God’s laws, and has not necessarily violated the sanctity of human life. Obviously, there are situations where deadly force is not justified, and therefore cannot rightfully be used. Police officers are trained to assess each situation and make a judgment call, sometimes in a split second, as to the amount of force that is appropriate and justified in any given situation. It is a difficult and dangerous proposition, and often a thankless job. We should pray daily for the safety of those who have devoted their lives to protecting and serving us as peace officers. We should also pray for God to grant them wisdom in the decisions they must make every day when dealing with sometimes nefarious characters.

Police officers are a necessary component of any effective system of government, and government is God-ordained.
Paul O'Rear Signature

This is Part 4 in a 6-part series entitled “The Sanctity of Life”.
Part 1: “The Sanctity of Human Life
Part 2: “Is Human Life Holy?
Part 3: “What About Capital Punishment?
Part 4: “I Wanna Be a Policeman
Part 5: “Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines
Part 6: “Abortion

Next: “Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines

Photo Credit:

  1. Police Officer, © John Roman (123RF Stock Photos), Used by permission.

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5 thoughts on “I Wanna Be a Policeman

  1. First of all, thank you, Paul, for this post.

    Ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I wanted to be a policeman. I can’t tell you what prompted my desire. I just know that being a policeman seemed to be my lifelong career goal. I have now been a policeman for 22 years 8 months and 4 days…not that anyone is counting.

    It has not always been easy, but then nobody ever promised it would be. I’ve met some great people throughout my career, but I’ve also met some people who have made utter messes of thier lives because of the choices they made. Because of some of the things I have seen throughout my career–yes, even in the relatively small community of Huntsville, Texas–it has sometimes been a struggle to maintain a positive attitude toward life and humanity. For the most part, I have succeeded–and I attribute that to my faith in God and my understanding that, even though the people I deal with make bad decisions and commit sometimes horrendous crimes, they are still God’s creation and He desires for them to be saved.

    One of a police officer’s most prominent, yet least used, tools is his service weapon. Officers are trained to use their sidearm as a defensive tool under the most extreme circumstances when needed to protect his/her own life or the life of another. We train and train for a day we hope we never have to face.

    The physical training of drawing the weapon and firing is only part of it. Officers must make split second decisions whether to draw and fire: Am I legally justified in using deadly force? Is deadly force the force necessary in this situation? This split second decision will change at least two lives forever, and it will be scrutinized by others for hours, days, even years. An officer need not even strap on that gun belt without being assured that he/she can make that split second decision if necessary.

    I always believed that, if ever faced with a deadly force situation, I would be able to do what was necessary to protect myself or others. Within the first two years of my career, I found myself in a situation where I had to make that decision. It was about 15 minutes before the end of my shift, and I was dispatched to a domestic disturbance. My sergeant responded with me. As we arrived at the residence, we could hear some arguing inside. I was standing to the side of the door when suddenly it opened. I saw a man standing in the doorway, and he had a gun in his hand. We were no more than two feet apart. I rapidly drew my weapon and, while pointing it at him, I ordered him repeatedly to drop the gun. There I was looking down the barrell of his gun while he looked down the barrell of mine. I could hear my sergeant off to my right yelling for him to drop the gun, as well, so I knew there were two guns on him. He dropped the gun fairly quickly–after about three “Drop the gun”s–and I grabbed his arm and took him to the ground and cuffed him.

    Why did I not shoot the man? Although it is seemingly impossible to imagine, while I was looking at his gun, I noticed that his finger was not in the trigger guard. I firmly believe that had his finger been in the trigger guard or had he moved his finger to the trigger, I would have resorted to deadly force. Amazingly, my sergeant saw the same thing, causing him to refrain from shooting, as well.

    All in all, it was a good ending to what could have been a really bad situation. We quickly learned that the man had just shot his wife 5 times inside the residence immediatly prior to our arrival. She survived.

    Fast forward to August 2002–my 16th year as a police officer. August 7, 2002, just before 8pm, I was dispatched to a theft call–a seemingly routine report call. The events to follow were anything but routine. I arrived on scene and spoke with the complainant and two of his associates. They reported that their neighbor had stolen some rebar from a trailer at the complainant’s residence. We walked over to talk to the neighbor. He stepped outside and I tried to talk to him. He was not responding verbally, which made me a bit uneasy. I saw some rebar in front of his shack, which made me suspicious. I was standing about 6 feet away from him trying to get some information from him.

    Officers are trained to “watch the hands” because it is the hands that will kill you. I was doing just that…watching his hands. Suddenly, he pulled his right hand from his pocket and lunged toward me. I could see something in his hand. Although I could not identify specifically what it was, I feared it was something intended to harm me. Insitinctively, I retreated backward to create distance between us. Unfortunately, I stumbled and fell to the ground, landing on my back. The suspect was on top of me in no time. He was flailing his right arm at me, and I felt an indescribable sensation in my left knee area. I realized he was stabbing me. I fumbled for my sidearm to protect myself from further harm. It was difficult to remove from the holster because I was on my back. I had never trained to draw my gun from my back while on the ground. I had to roll the right side of my body up off the ground to get my gun out. I succeeded in drawing my gun and fired three times, striking him with each round. The injuries inflicted on him drove him back away from me. I got to my feet and was facing him. He was in somewhat of a football stance, appearing as though he were contemplating lunging at me again. He did, and I fired one last shot, striking him in the shoulder. He crawled off to his residence. All of this happened in the span of a few seconds.

    I called for help on my radio. The complainant and his associates–who were now witnesses to this horrible event–had run for cover. I can’t blame them. After the last shot, they returned to my aid. I was glad to see them. They helped me until my backup arrived. I was beginning to feel the excruciating pain in my left leg, and I still did not yet know how badly I was injured.

    After EMS had tended to me and the scene had calmed down a bit, I asked my sergeant if the suspect was going to make it–knowing full well that the bullets I had fired struck their mark and most likely killed him. He would not tell me, but I learned a short time later that the suspect that tried to kill me had died from the gunshots I fired to protect my life.

    I sensed that a lot of people with whom I worked questioned whether I would be able to deal with the fact that I had taken a life. I honestly never had any second thoughts about it–until about three years later. I’ll write more about that another time.

    Thanks for “listening.”

  2. OK, so I left off my last writing after mentioning that some people who know me were uncertain whether I would be able to deal with the fact that I had to take a life. I had always believed that I would instinctively resort to the force necessary to protect myself or another, even if that meant employing deadly force. Unfortunately, I was faced with having to make that decision….albeit a subconscious one. I didn’t have to think about it. My training kicked in..even though I had never trained to draw my gun from such an awkward position. I truly believe though that my training…and my God…saved my life that day…because I was watching the bad guy’s hands as trained to do…and God was watching after me.

    During the following days, weeks, months, I never second guessed my actions. Although I would have preferred to never have been forced to make that decision, I knew I had made the right one. I knew that I did what I had to do in order to go home to my family that night. And that is what we strive for in police work…to go home safe and sound at the end of the shift. I can’t say that I went home “sound” that night, because I was rather loopy from the drugs I was on for the pain. But I was blessed to be with my family.

    I was blessed!! But what about the man I had killed? (That sounds so harsh!) I did have some nightmares from time to time, but in my consciousness, I was still certain I did only what I had to do. I had no other choice.

    Then one evening, I watched a movie that abruptly raised a question in my mind. (I tried to embed a YouTube clip from the movie below. I hope it works.) For the first time in years, I felt doubt–uncertainty–about my choice. The movie was “End of the Spear.” A GREAT movie. But there was one scene that tore my heart seemingly in two. The words the little boy spoke to his father in this particular scene…and the father’s response…hit me hard…sent chills throughout my body…caused me to wonder and doubt myself.

    The movie is about missionaries that went into the uncivilized jungles of Ecuador looking for native tribes that had never heard about God or about the saving power of Jesus Christ. They were lost. And the missionaries were seeking them….their desire was to introduce them to their savior and teach them about eternal salvation. But the tribes were hostile.

    In this scene that hit me like a load of bricks, the missionary man was preparing to leave in his plane to fly into the jungle to seek these tribes. His family was telling him goodbye. Just before he left, his young son looked at him and in a soft voice asked him, “If the Wodoni (sp?) attack, will you defend yourself? Will you use your gun?” The father’s response: “We can’t shoot the Wodoni. The Wodoni aren’t ready for heaven. We are.” (The video below shows this scene when the counter is at 1:57.)

    Although that response pierced through me like a spear, I made it through the end of the movie, but was very quiet and introspective on the ride home. When we got home, Beth of course could tell that something was wrong. I sat on my couch and simply burst into tears, crying like a baby. I hadn’t ever cried about this ordeal. Now it just all released. In my mind, I questioned myself, “What if this man was not ready for heaven?” “What if I had killed this man before he had the opportunity to be saved?” What had I done??

    Beth tried to comfort me like a loving wife who absolutely had no idea what to say. After reflecting on it for awhile, I calmed down a bit. I reasoned through the entire scenario and remembered….this man, I learned later, was mentally “off.” He had some mental issues that perhaps caused him to be intellectually under-developed. Surely God would take this into consideration and offer his grace as needed. I finally convinced myself that I needed to just leave it with God. Beth and I prayed about it, and I gave it to God. That was it. I once again was at peace.

    When the second anniversary came and went, it brought a new level of relief. That was the deadline for any wrongful death lawsuit to be filed by the family. It didn’t happen, and I really didn’t expect that it would. But still, I was releived. I was absolutely justified, and that was readily apparent.

    i went for about four years thinking about that horrible ordeal every single day…not with regrets or in a sense of panic, except for that one night. There was just something every single day that caused me to think about it. The scars on my knee are, of course, a constant reminder. People ask me about it from time to time, and I’ll talk about it when asked. I heard the first or last name of the man, as related to someone else who shares that name, and it jogged my memory. His name was David. That didn’t help. But I dealt with it on a daily basis. I especially thought about it on the anniversary of the ordeal every year…August 7. Until about the fifth year….2007. I realized that there were days that went by that the event did not even cross my mind. And this year, 2008, I thought about it a few days before the anniversary, but on the actual day….didn’t think about it one single time. I am healed. God has continued to bless me. I am at peace.

    Here is the embedded video. I hope it works…………………….I don’t think it did.

  3. Well, I’ve been checking back to see if anyone else posted any comments…and I see that they haven’t. So while I’m here, I’d like to add some more thoughts.

    This past week was a horrible one for many people because of a hurricane named Ike. Ike decided to pay a visit to Huntsville after crashing into Galveston and other cities along the Texas Gulf Coast. Huntsville was without power for several days, but the repairs came quickly compared to parts south of here.

    So what does a policeman do in a hurricane, you might ask? Our department went to 12-hour shifts for all officers, 6a-6p for day shift, and 6p-6a for night shift. I was already on the 6p-6a shift, so I was fairly well adjusted. I was on patrol Friday night/Saturday morning as the storm came in. The other officers and I drove around town watching for, identifying, and reporting to the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) any problems such as downed trees or power lines, flooding in any particular areas, and any other circumstance that might pose a threat to the public. We were still patrolling as the tropical storm force winds hit Huntsville, but once the winds and the rain got to 45 mph, we were pulled in to the safety of the police station. Just as my shift ended, we received a call of a tree that fell into a house and onto an elderly lady in bed. Although we had pledged to stay in the safe confines of the police station with the winds howling outside, several officers and medical personnel responded to assess the severity of the situation and provide any lifesaving efforts deemed appropriate. I did not make the scene, but it was described to me and I saw the pictures. The lady did not survive the falling tree. Her husband was laying in bed right beside her and was unharmed. It was several hours before recovery crews could remove her from beneath the huge tree. Some things are just unexplainable.

    After the damaging winds and torrential rain continued to cut a path toward the north, Huntsville was left with virtually no power throughout the city…with the exception of two or three small areas. Trees and power lines were down everywhere. Now the real work began.

    No power to homes and businesses means no burglar alarms…which often translates into “free shopping” for bad guys who are so inclined to take advantage of such situations. We patrolled the dark neighborhoods and business districts relentlessly, but still, we could not be everywhere at once. We found several burglaries after the bad guys had done their damage, and others were reported to us in the following days.

    Just as troubling was the phenomenon developing at gas stations that still had power and gas. Lines formed for blocks and blocks with people needing gas for their vehicles. The waiting and the stress was too much for some people. Our primary job was to ensure that traffic flowed smoothly on the adjacent roadways, but we were also tasked with quelling any disturbances that erupted at the gas lines…which they did. It wasn’t as bad as the aftermath of Rita. We learned some things from Rita, and we implemented those lessons learned. We set up an orderly traffic flow pattern at most of the gas stations and then required the business personnel to take over the traffic direction to free up officers for actual police-related issues. Some places required extended assistance from officers, though. At one point, I pulled officers from one location and watched from a nearby vantage point. It was disheartening to see that as soon as the police officers left, the people began acting like children and bickering over places in line. I had to step in and settle the problems and remain on scene for a while longer.

    In addition to serving the public during this time of crisis, officers are keenly aware that their property and/or families might be in danger. That’s why I sent my family to Yoakum, so I did not have that extra concern on my mind. I did learn from another officer who had been patrolling during the daytime, that a tree had fallen on my house. Reports were that it did not appear to have done any major damage, but I was anxious to see for myself. I was bedding down at the PD for several nights since I lost power at my house, so I left the PD and went to check on my own house. As I arrived, I saw a huge tree top that had been snapped from high above the ground and had landed on the driveway and on the roof over my garage. It did appear to have only minimal damage, so I was relieved. The yard was littered with leaves and branches of varying sizes, but it could have been so much worse.

    Back to work….dark streets for several nights. The hours seemed to get longer. The county judge implemented a curfew from 8p-6a. That gave us more authority to check out people that were out at night to ensure they were not up to no good.

    After five straight 12 hour shifts followed by one 8 hour shift, I was beat. I had one day off, then back to a 12 hour shift. And it just so happenes that night we had a shooting with a bunch of drama to follow and a woman reportedly holding a knife to her boyfriend’s throat. Finally…things were back to normal.

    I’ll try to write more as time permits. I’d love to read your responses, your thoughts about what it might be like to be a policeman, and even answer any questions you might have about the job.

    Be safe.