The Spiritual Side of Community Policing
By J.T. McBride
From the standpoint of community policing, there is nothing worse to see than a cop with a nasty attitude. A popular college textbook describes the essence of community policing as a mutual trust-building activity leading to the establishment and maintenance of community-based partnerships. If and when it works, the result is a “win-win” outcome for the police and the community. The “heart” of community policing, however, is an understanding of the spiritual nature of life. We are spiritual beings in physical bodies, and fortunately most community policing practitioners tend to understand that concept better than others.
It usually doesn’t take long for attentive young cops to realize that a big part of the world appears to be controlled by the “Dark Side.” When over-exposed to intense evil, a common response is to step away from organized religion. Street cops tend lose faith in those people and institutions they had previously trusted and may even “pull away” from loved ones for a while. Some continue down the path of spiritual isolation increasing the likelihood that they will eventually succumb to one of the many temptations associated with police work in contemporary society.
Other young officers witness the same levels of unfairness, violence and tragedy, yet deduce that this degree of human horror cannot simply be random in nature. Logic dictates that a better and kinder force must be in charge because goodness dwells side-by-side with evil in every American community. It just doesn’t get as much attention as is given the Dark Side. Granted, police work mostly involves clients who have elected to follow the Dark Side and/or their unfortunate victims.
Even so, every town and village and city and county is full of people who have chosen The Light. Therein is the gemstone of community policing: good cops working with good people to build mutual trust and develop partnerships opposing the evil forces of the Dark Side. Trust-building comes easiest to those who walk in the Light because they understand the value of working with community leaders to solve problems instead of just “taking calls.” Their energy is spent developing networks and building trust while they protect and serve the community.
Law enforcement practitioners who walk with the Light know that beyond this world is a special place where all the answers will come. The important recognition that they will see their departed brothers and sisters once again is the major reason police give their Fallen Ones elaborate Viking-like funerals.
The pageantry and special rituals surrounding these events demonstrate a collective belief not only in the eternal nature of the soul but also in the spiritual nature of law enforcement. This dogma is evidenced each time a bagpiper walks slowly away from a gravesite playing “Amazing Grace” while the legions of officers standing at attention nearby dedicate themselves anew to their profession.
One great book about the spiritual side of police work, Cary A. Friedman’s Spiritual Survival for Law Enforcement, is a great read. It contains many powerful concepts, one of the most powerful being: “The law enforcement officer’s value as a symbol of hope, as an inspiration to the public he serves, is at least as valuable as any actual law enforcement work he performs.”
So if and when the “job” gets you down, keep this in mind: You are a spiritual being on a spiritual mission, and as such you walk every day with the angels and with The Light. Go forth and build trust with the people whom you serve and work as closely as you can with the pastors, priests, rabbis, and ministers who do their best to keep the Dark Side in check. God bless America and its police and their very special vocation. Thanks to them we all have hope that the Dark Side will never win.
Chief J.T. McBride (Ret.) teaches community policing at Lakeland Community College in Ohio. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.