“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― attributed to Edmund Burke (1770 A.D.)
What was true in Burke’s day is just as true in ours. I believe I can say without contradiction that we all want to live peaceful lives and do not want evil to triumph. However, there is little doubt that we are not receiving honest and useful information from media sources about those who are charged with keeping the peace in our towns and cities. We were told after 9/11 that we should not judge all Muslims by the actions of those who flew planes into the Twin Towers in New York, and I believe we should not judge all police officers by the actions of a few. Yet that is precisely what is happening.
I am astounded at the people who suggest that we can live peaceful lives without a police force, because I know all too well the human condition – that we are born sinful and then commit sins our entire lives. You’ll note that you don’t ever have to teach a child how to sin, it just comes naturally. And because there are sinners in our world doing sinful things we need to have a way to curb the sinning, thus we need police.
I support our police. And while I have never been happy to be pulled over by one while driving nor was I happy when I received my one and only speeding ticket on November 26, 1978, I also know that they are necessary to have in a society populated by sinners. The law is a restraint to lawlessness unless there is nobody to enforce that law. I want to be able to dial 911 when there is an emergency and have experienced, concerned people respond. Yet right now police, good men and women of law enforcement, who are charged with keeping the peace are being vilified and attacked for doing their job.
The following is a portion of a letter written by Sheriff Daniel J. Coverly of Douglas County, Nevada, written July 27, 2020. Everything in this letter is verifiable by facts not just emotions or feelings as much of the rhetoric that is heard elsewhere. I am sharing it with you to help you see an honest accounting of law enforcement in our country and to encourage your support of their work.
The tragic and preventable death of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis Police officers shined a national spotlight on bad actors within the law enforcement profession. At the same time, data simply does not support claims that law enforcement is systemically racist or structurally biased. Despite the lack of available evidence to support the anti-police narrative, it proliferates and has spawned radical reactions such as the current calls to “defund the police,” as well as increases in violence against police—ranging from assaults to assassinations.
Last year in the United States, a country with a population of 330 million people, 1,004 civilians were fatally shot by police officers. The vast majority of these officer-involved shootings were justifiable, and most involved an armed or dangerous subject. There were nine fatal shootings of unarmed black persons (down from thirty-eight in 2015) and nineteen fatal shooting of unarmed white persons (down from thirty-two in 2015) those deaths represent 0.1% of all black homicide victims and 0.3% of all white homicide victims.
The data indicate that exceedingly few encounters with police involve force. For example, only 2% of people who had any contact with police anytime in the prior twelve months said that officers used or even threatened to use force against them, according to the 2015 Police-Public Contact Survey conducted by United States Bureau of Justice Statistics. Over 58,000 officers were assaulted while performing their duties in 2018, according to FBI data collected from only two-thirds of law enforcement agencies. That is an assault rate of 10.8 per 100 officers. Moreover, assaults with deadly weapons against the police occurred thirty-three times per day.
Recent history confirms that when myths about the police are not strongly repudiated by our local, state and national leaders, law-enforcement officers lose their lives. In 2016, following a national rebellion against law enforcement —like what we are experiencing today —the number of officers shot and killed in the line of duty increased by 56% in that year alone. Twenty-one of those deaths were ambush-style shootings of law-enforcement officers. Who can forget the fine officers murdered in attacks in Dallas, Texas, and the three officers murdered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in only a ten-day period? In recent weeks of national unrest, 750 officers have already been injured defending their communities from the violence that has swept our country. The entire letter can be read here: https://sheriff.douglascountynv.gov/news/what_s_new/letter_to_library_board_from_sheriff_coverley
That is quite a bit of material to digest, but certainly worth knowing, since we live in a culture that is doing exactly what the prophet Isaiah wrote about: “Woe to those who call evil good (rioters) and good evil (law enforcement), who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight” (Is. 5:20-21).
As Christians we are encouraged to follow the instruction of the Apostle Paul who wrote in Romans 12:21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” and Romans 12:9, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”
Let’s pray for, support and encourage our law enforcement professionals in their vocation to serve and protect our community. I for one will not be amongst those doing nothing.