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Balance And The Thin Blue Line

By John Schaefer | July 29, 2020

Clearly, not every one of the 800,000 men and women who have taken the pledge to protect and serve in this country are without flaw. Given that law enforcement recruits from the human race, it is just as liable to employ broken, sinful men and women, capable of all kinds of injustice, as every other profession. Even so, it would show an extreme lack of discernment to presume that every person who works for a police department is corrupt, evil, a racist or someone who is unfit for public service.

On July 8th I was asked to respond to Fullerton P.D. where I serve as a Police Chaplain. At about 4:00pm that afternoon FPD received a 911 call about a two-year-old boy who had been accidentally left in a car since almost 10:00am in the morning. Unfortunately, by the time he was found and the police were called, the little boy was dead.

Because I was involved with the initial call, I have had the opportunity to stay connected with the people involved; the little boy’s mother, the officers, the detectives, the civilian staff, the supervisors and FPD management.

Many of these people have young children or a close family connection with small children. You do not need to be especially empathic or have a great imagination to understand what a horrible thing it is when a two-year-old little boy dies. Tragedy doesn’t really seem to adequately describe the awfulness of all this entails.

Finding and holding the little lifeless body, hearing the mother and father screaming hysterically, “Save my baby!” Administering CPR to a little body that could be your own son or daughter. Having to “be professional” as your head and heart are trying to process a myriad of emotions. Or worse yet, having this be the second, fourth, or even sixth such event you have been involved with.

As I have heard these stories and wept with these men and women trying to process something that no one should ever have to think about, I can’t help but think about the narrative we see and read about law enforcement almost every day. Not only is this narrative overwhelmingly negative, some of it goes so far as to demand defunding or dissolving police departments.

24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, thousands of men and women across this nation, including those in the City of Fullerton, report to serve their communities as members of a local police department. In doing so they are subjected to all kinds of terrible things that fall within the responsibilities of police service and are the things that no one else is available to do or wants to do. They risk injury, death and unimaginable trauma while responding to every imaginable situation, including the death of a two-year-old child.

I pray that each of us, as broken people with our own shortcomings, would not lose sight of the tremendous service law enforcement provides to our communities. I pray that we would balance our pursuit of justice with an appreciation for the protection police provide from horrible things we do not want to see or think about. I pray that we would understand what it communicates to men and women who give and do so much when we say what you do should be defunded or dissolved.

John Schaefer