Although I’ve never desired to be a cop, even as a small child – I’ve always respected what a difficult job it is for those who are sworn to “serve and protect”. In our culture, police are more scrutinized and more criticized than virtually any other group. Of course, there have been multiple instances when police officers should be scrutinized and held accountable. There have been instances of abuse of power and excessive force. There are (and have been) wide-spread instances of profiling, racism, and corruption. However, I believe that the overwhelming majority of our men and women in blue take on that difficult job because they want to be part of making the community in which we all live a better place.
Likewise, as a member of the clergy, I too have a desire to make our community a better place. I too would like to utilize my training and skills to help people and to make a difference. I also must admit that (despite the respect and trust that we desire) members of the clergy have also been guilty of some very unethical and ungodly practices – often inflicted on those we are called to shepherd and teach. So, what am I to do with this information? How can I help be part of the solution instead of just lamenting about the problem?
In my case, I decided that in addition to my duties as Senior Pastor of FCC-Las Vegas, that I would also serve as a volunteer chaplain with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Once I cleared the very extensive background checks and completed their training and orientation, I was assigned to serve the Convention Center Area Command – the city’s largest substation and the one that patrols the LV Strip. It has been an eye-opening experience, to say the least. The Department asks its chaplains to serve at least 20 hours per month. Sometimes that includes time in the substation getting to know officers and civilian staff. However, most of the time, it means that I’m riding along with a patrol officer, (equipped with my own ballistic vest and uniform – but not a weapon), and being a part of every call that they respond to during that shift.
On my very first shift, what really struck me, and continues to make an impact – is that when an officer makes a traffic stop, he or she will place their right hand on the back of the car as they approach the driver. The reason for that is that IF the driver were to open fire and mortally wound or kill the approaching officer, then at least that officer’s fingerprints would be on the car as evidence of that officer’s presence.
I’ve always heard that police officers place their lives on the line every single day. But I’ve learned that statement isn’t clear enough. Police officers place their lives on the line at every call, in-between calls, and on their off days. In most cities, police officers are referred to as “the best of the best”. So rather than complain about all that’s wrong with our police departments and society in general – aren’t we as Christians (and especially the clergy) called to do more? I’m proud to do whatever I can, to serve those who are called to serve and protect my community. I challenge you to find a way to serve your community (beyond the church) as well.
Steve Willis, Senior Pastor
First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Las Vegas, Nevada