Reflections on Policing, Race and Gratitude
by Jennifer P. Davis
Rev. Matt Smith, Chairperson of the WNCC Justice and Reconciliation team, knows of my twenty plus years of consulting with law enforcement agencies across this country. It has been kind of a well kept secret as I am often so busy doing the work that I don’t have time (or refuse to take time) to debate the negative stereotypical descriptions that many people prefer to share.
The truth of the matter is that, while I have taught the police many things, I have learned far more from them, most of it coming as a result of building relationships - one officer at a time. Contrary to what we see or hear in the media, I have tons of stories about good, caring, compassionate, and kind police officers….men and women, young and old, black, white, yellow, brown, and every shade in between.
But, in the last week, two things have happened that made this writing task more meaningful for me: 1) a young man, who was a student of my daughter’s some years ago, graduated from Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) last Friday night and then graduated from college the following Saturday morning. He is 23 years old….the same age as my oldest granddaughter…..African-American, no police record, never shot a gun until he was in training, and is passionate about caring for his family and others; and 2) a friend and colleague sent me a copy of an article which will be published in our local newspaper in a day or so. He gave me permission to share it with my “clients”, as I felt appropriate.
I find it appropriate to paraphrase and share the following thought with you:
Many of us are looking forward to spending precious time with our families next week as we celebrate Christmas and the birth of Christ. But, while we relax, there will be those who slip on their uniform” – a nurse, ER doctor, firefighter, emergency responder, etc., - some will strap on a firearm and a badge – and quietly and willingly leave their family gatherings to ensure that the rest of us are as safe as possible and able to enjoy our day. Some pastor will have to comfort a grieving family or visit a hospital while many of us will go about a celebration that we have been planning for weeks.
Some of these people will have to postpone their celebrations for a little while as we continue with ours. Just because we may not need one of these servants, please don’t take their service, or that of our military personnel, for granted. Pray for those people who will not only sacrifice at least part of their day for us but pray especially for those men and women who are willing to lay their lives down, if necessary, for the same people who stereotype their profession and dismiss their calling.
I challenge you to, not only pray for them but, say “thank you” every opportunity you have. It is what Christ would have us do and may it be done.
A blessed Merry Christmas to you all,
Jennifer Davis is a layperson from Epworth United Methodist Church in Gastonia and head of the WNCC Delegation to General Conference.