This most recent addition to the Law Officer “Chaplain’s Corner” arsenal comes in the wake of recent critical incidents (not the least of which is the Florida school shooting) and the plethora of commentary from non-sworn pundits and other so-called “experts” who have never served in the heat of a deadly force conflict. That commentary, frankly, deserves a response from those of us who have made “running to the sound of gunfire” a way of life as an all-too-regular part of our servant-warrior ethos.
My response comes in the wake of more than three decades as a sworn officer and police trainer. In addition, my response is also strongly rooted in a biblical (God’s) worldview inasmuch as I’ve also served concurrently as a police chaplain for the last dozen years. Let’s dig in!
Right off, we need to define some terms and put to bed the idea that police officers must be downgraded from the servant-warriors God has called us to be and into some kind of politically correct (and oxymoron if there ever was one) “guardian.”
Where does the term “warrior” come from? Scripture (ultimately undeniable evidence) of course! Here are just two brief examples:
Blessed be the LORD, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle ( Psalm 144:1)
The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name . (Exodus 15:3)
Part of the problem is that most today, especially those in academia and the media, have never served in a combat unit or taken on violent offenders as a sworn law enforcement officer. Fewer still will take the time to understand the concept of evil or embrace what it means to be what my friend — Lt. Col. Dave Grossman — describes as a “sheepdog” (see “On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs”), to wit, those of us who have answered the call to run to the sound of gunfire (chaos) and engage the wolves (the criminal element) that would otherwise feast with impunity on the sheep (the defenseless public) we’ve sworn to serve and protect.
Now some might suggest that being a “warrior” or even running to the sound of gunfire are somehow at odds with modern Peelian principles of policing. Frankly (and the subject of a future article), I think that’s plain rubbish (a good British term). However, anyone who follows my own teachings knows that I routinely add the biblical concept of being a “servant” to “warrior” (servant -warrior) and “leader” (servant-leader).
In a previous article, I asked what it meant to have and live a servant-warrior ethos in this “age of guardians” (smh). Let’s review:
Fellow writer Steve Willis rightly wrote, “The consummate warrior is defined by his indomitable spirit, fierce will, personal integrity, and a willing, vigorous dedication to whatever written or implied code(s) of conduct his government might place upon him in addition to his exceptional skill at arms.” Is this not consistent with what we do as cops? I believe it most certainly is.
The rarity of true servant-warriors who will run to the sound of gunfire and take on evil is not new. On this, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote, “Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn’t even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.” Amen to that!
And the servant part of being a warrior? The word servant in the Greek of the New Testament is diakonos. We get the word “deacon” from that. It has the same meaning as the word “minister” used by the apostle Paul in Romans 13:1-4 where he rightly calls for the police to be God’s “ministers for good and a terror against evil.” Here’s what Jesus Himself said on the subject of servanthood that has powerful application for us as civil servants: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your servant; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” (Matthew 20:25-27)
Finally, we look again at the word ethos. The Oxford dictionary defines ethos as “the characteristic spirit of a community as revealed in its beliefs and aspirations.”
Put these three terms words together (servant-warrior ethos) and we come up with something like this: “The characteristic spirit of the community of those who are called to be servant-warriors as revealed in their beliefs and aspirations.” And to what should we aspire? Consider the following:
- To always place the mission first (with the “mission” being our summed up in our Law Enforcement Code of Ethics – a copy of which still hangs on my office wall).
- To never accept defeat and to never quit until the fight is done.
- To never leave a fallen comrade.
- To serve, protect and defend the public – including the “weak and the defenseless” (Psalm 82:3-4, Isaiah 1:17).
- To TRAIN in accordance with our ethos (true warriors will train like warriors).
- To always seek to love, serve and protect others before self — even at the risk of our own lives. No, I’m not suggesting that we in any way toss sound officer safety in the gutter or make getting home at the end of our shifts any less important. Rather, I am in fact saying that our oaths call us to step up higher. However, this does NOT – as our Supreme Court has rightly affirmed – include allowing ourselves to refrain from using deadly force until after deadly physical force is used against us!
So with all this in mind, here is the hard truth: the vast majority of us would have done everything in our power to have been able to stop the carnage at Douglas High School; Las Vegas concert venue; the Orlando nightclub; Virginia Tech; Sandy Hook; Sutherland Springs; Dallas; Lakewood; Los Angeles; the abortion clinic in Colorado Springs; the theater in Aurora; Platte Canyon and Columbine high schools (my home state of Colorado is no stranger to these kind of incidents); the 9/11 attacks; the Murrah Federal Building and far too many other places. Praise God, law enforcement intervention greatly reduced the body count at many of these events, and there have also been countless other potential massacres that have been prevented because we did in fact run to the sound of threat and “gunfire” (explosions, crashes, disturbances, suspicious circumstances, etc.) — often at the price of our health and yes, our lives.
Finally, let me state — for the record — that the real issue here is not guns (or planes, bombs, knives, etc.) but rather the unchecked allowance for evil, disobedience to God’s standards and lawlessness in general. As a nation we have turned our backs on God and there are righteous consequences for having done so.
Ultimately, and in these perilous time, it will be us, the servant-warrior peace officer, the sheepdog, who will stand on the thin blue line between good (order, peace) and evil (chaos, anarchy, lawlessness) and will answer the call (“here am I, send me“) to righteously run to the sound of gunfire to protect and rescue the defenseless and, if necessary, take out the wolf. So help us God!