For many years, the answer little boys would give when asked what they want to be when they grow up has been “I want to be a policeman.” They recognized that the police are protectors, friends, the people who put their lives on the line every day to protect society.
Today, however, the police officer’s job has suddenly become much more dangerous. Police are themselves under fire, battling growing resentment and distrust by large segments of a society they are sworn to protect.
Recently, many have cited a rise in resentment against police and authority figures as the cause of the wave of anti-police violence. What should be our attitude towards authority?
In late August, Harris County (Texas) sheriff’s deputy Darren Goforth was ambushed and killed at a suburban gas station. While fueling his patrol car, a lone gunman walked up to him and shot him in the back of the head, then shot him repeatedly as he lay dying. Goforth, 47, left a wife and two children.
One week later, New York Police Department officer Brian Moore was shot to death when he stopped to investigate a man suspected of carrying a gun on a New York street. Just 25, he left a wife and two small children. The young officer had already been awarded two medals for meritorious service.
Near Atlanta, Fulton County police officer Terrance Green was killed in another ambush-style attack by a man who assaulted a group of officers after having “gone on a rampage” throughout south Fulton County, Georgia.
“War on America’s police officers”
Through early November, 2015 witnessed the slaying of 34 police officers. September was a particularly deadly month, with seven officers giving their lives in the line of duty.
“War has been declared on America’s police officers,” says Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.
Across the country, police feel themselves under fire, their role in society maligned, their safety threatened. Speaking for the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents more than 300,000 police officers, FOP President Chuck Canterbury said, “It’s almost a radical rhetoric causing officers to say, ‘Wait a second, I’m out here to serve the public. I saved a little old lady from a purse snatching. I gave CPR on the highway and saved somebody. Now, I’m a villain?’” (quoted by Ed Payne and Artemis Moshtaghian in CNN, “Attacks Leave Police Feeling Under Siege,” Sept. 4, 2015).
Across the United States, a string of highly publicized confrontations between police and mostly minority youth has ignited a wave of animosity against law enforcement and law enforcement officers. Major American cities are the battlegrounds, where police themselves feel threatened. A sinister piece of graffiti painted on the side of a Houston building near the Harris County police station showed a picture of a police officer with a gun pointed at his head.
Hollywood has piled on, with celebrities such as movie director Quentin Tarantino calling cops “murderers” over the recent media-hyped shootings in minority neighborhoods. Sadly, the Hollywood police haters and rabble-rousers seem to get no end of publicity in a celebrity-obsessed nation.
The Ferguson effect
Observers have noted the long-standing distrust and animosity between police and largely African-American inner city youth, especially young men. Those simmering tensions exploded after the August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown, a young African-American man shot by Ferguson, Missouri, police office Darren Wilson. Brown had just robbed a convenience store, and evidence showed that he attacked Wilson just before he was shot.
Brown’s death touched off a wave of racial violence in Ferguson’s minority community, resulting in night after night of widespread violence, burning and looting. Confrontations with police produced dozens of injuries to both rioting citizens and the police, tens of millions of dollars in property damage, and more than 100 arrests.
Now, what is being called “the Ferguson effect” has caused police to be far more cautious, especially when operating in minority neighborhoods. The Wall Street Journal reported this effect in chilling terms:
“Almost any police shooting of a black person, no matter how threatening the behavior that provoked the shooting, now provokes angry protests … Arrests in black communities are even more fraught than usual, with hostile, jeering crowds pressing in on officers and spreading lies about the encounter” (Heather McDonald, “The New Nationwide Crime Wave,” May 29, 2015)
Police more cautious, crime rates up
Across the nation, some mayors and officials in cities with heavy minority populations have themselves accused police of racial bias and excessive use of force. In New York, Mayor Bill De Blasio alleged the New York Police Department used excessive racial profiling, a charge echoed by many minority mayors across the nation.
Faced with criticism from city hall, the media, popular culture, and minority communities, police everywhere report being more cautious and reserved in their responses. One example: In many cities, officers now wait in their patrol cars for backup before confronting crime suspects.
Police cautiousness has emboldened criminals, leading to a spike in crime rates across the nation. After falling for two decades to just over 300 in 2014, murder rates in New York City more than doubled during the first six months of 2015. In Baltimore, gun violence rose more than 60 percent compared to the same period last year—its 43 homicides in May 2015 the deadliest month since 1972. Statistics show this pattern across the country in 2015.
What’s behind it?
Events in inner-city neighborhoods have shown that the right provocation can fan smoldering embers of resentment into a full-blown blaze. But is this a new development or something that has been growing for years?
History has a way of repeating itself. With the rise of highly emotional racial conflicts in the late 1960s, police began to hear themselves referred to as “pigs,” an epithet that continued in inner-city neighborhoods long after the violence subsided. White college students picked up the term, screaming it at police who were called to keep order in often-violent protests against the Vietnam War.
We can add the effects of modern mass media, whose ranks today are filled with the products of modern Western education, which denies the existence of any moral authority, and, therefore, challenges all authority.
And we have seen incidents in which law-enforcement officers have acted rashly, unwisely, abusively or even criminally, leading to unnecessary injuries and deaths. Some have been charged with and convicted of murder, manslaughter and assault, among other crimes.
Advancing their own media narrative, television news coverage of the Ferguson incident and others too often demonize police officers, painting pictures of alleged “police brutality” while totally ignoring barrages of rocks and debris hurled at officers, accompanied by taunts and threats. And usually agitators are in the background egging on the crowd.
The picture of growing disrespect and hatred toward police and authority figures is impossible to ignore. But is there an even deeper, more fundamental cause?
Few recognize, and even fewer will acknowledge, the sinister ultimate cause behind today’s violence and disrespect for authority. Your Bible identifies a powerful and evil adversary who, incredible as it may sound, casts his influence over all mankind today. “You He made alive, who … once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience …” (Ephesians 2:1-2 Ephesians 2:1-2 1 And you has he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
2 Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience:
American King James Version×, emphasis added throughout).
This being has the world under his sway, influencing millions in attitudes of rebellion and strife (1 John 5:19 1 John 5:19And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in wickedness.
American King James Version×; Revelation 12:9 Revelation 12:9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
American King James Version×). Read our free booklet Is There Really a Devil ? to learn more about this being and his influence on the world.
The prophesied solution
Human beings, it seems, have always had a problem with authority, which gives rise to the question: What should be our attitude towards authority and authority figures? The apostle Paul addressed this issue in his letter to the church in Rome:
“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil” (Romans 13:1-3 Romans 13:1-3 1 Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2 Whoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Will you then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and you shall have praise of the same:
American King James Version×, New American Standard Bible). Paul went on to exhort the young pastor Timothy to give thanks for “all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:1-2 1 Timothy 2:1-2 1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.
American King James Version×).
Thankfully, despite today’s violence, your Bible proclaims a soon-coming time when people will live at peace, a time when God’s law will guide all of humanity. Study the prophecies of Isaiah 2:2-4 Isaiah 2:2-4 2 And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.
3 And many people shall go and say, Come you, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
American King James Version×; Isaiah 9:6-7 Isaiah 9:6-7 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, on the throne of David, and on his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from now on even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
American King James Version×; Isaiah 11:6-9 Isaiah 11:6-9 6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatted calf together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. 9 They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
American King James Version×and Isaiah 35:5-7 Isaiah 35:5-7 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6 Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. 7 And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
American King James Version×. It also foretells the time when Satan, this great adversary, will be restrained—no longer able to influence mankind:
“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having … a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years … and shut him up … so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished” (Revelation 20:1-2 Revelation 20:1-2 1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
American King James Version×).
At that time, when God’s long-foretold Kingdom is established on earth, Satan’s influence will be replaced with attitudes of cooperation, giving, and true justice for all. Notice in particular what the prophet Isaiah foretells of Christ in Isaiah 11: “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord… with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth” (Isaiah 11:2-4 Isaiah 11:2-4 2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
3 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
4 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
American King James Version×, New American Standard Bible).
Millions who today feel, whether rightly or wrongly, that they are denied justice will be treated fairly. The entire world will respect authority and live secure, peaceful lives under the supreme law of God, which will ensure justice, peace and tranquility. God speed that day!