Friday, December 05, 2014

When Good Cops Become Bad Cops

Mark 5:4         For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him.

            After reading and hearing about how Eric Garner died through an illegal choke-hold in New York, I cannot believe that the cop involved was not indicted. Usually, I don’t comment on things like this because I don’t want to add to the anger and resentment, as well as the distraught and division that events like this cause across our community and nation. I am very supportive of the Law Enforcement agencies throughout the United States because I do believe that the police should protect and serve the people at all times. However, Mr. Garner’s death has shaken that belief and now I am of the opinion that good cops become bad cops when they protect, shelter, or ignore the violent cops in their precinct.

            Policing the streets of any major city must be one of the hardest jobs that we ask any person to do. There is a lot of violence in our communities, so I do not envy or even know what our cops have to face on a day to day basis. As I wrote before, I am highly respectful and greatly admire the work of the police among us, but let me also state this again: good cops become bad cops when they protect, shelter, or ignore the violent cops in their precincts.

            If we freely give our law enforcement people the rights to police our public streets in order to protect and serve our citizens, then we must also expect them to rigidly police themselves. If there are rogue and racist cops in a precinct, then they need to be removed by their peers and not tolerated or supported in any way, shape or form. If there are violent and overly aggressive officers in their stations, then they have to be ousted publicly. If good cops protect bad cops out of a false sense of camaraderie or tribalism, then the good cops have become bad cops and we no longer have a police service; we end up with a misanthropic militia of which everybody in the community fears, instead of respecting and supporting.

            Eric Garner was killed by the cops who violently restrained him. The good cops of that precinct know the cops involved. They know their history of arrests. They know of any brutality. They know of any racism that exists. If the good cops continue to turn a blind eye to what’s going on, then there are no longer any good cops in that precinct.

            I may have trodden on a few toes, or upset some law abiding people, or angered friends who have family members that are good cops. To them, I write this: Justice and freedom can only be protected and served by just and free citizens. A just and free community can only be policed by just and free cops. A bad cop is an unjust cop who ignores our freedoms and tramps all over our liberties. Good cops become bad cops when they allow those bad cops to freely and unjustly operate in their midst.

Questions for personal reflection

Where have I seen injustice in my community? What am I doing about it?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, we pray for our community and our nation which is divided and disturbed over recent racist and violent events. Sometimes we feel helpless and powerless, so we choose to ignore what’s going on and end up denying the truth. You once said that ‘the truth will make you free.’(John 8:32). Help us to overcome our fears in order to embrace and advance the truth which will set us all free from violence, racism, and injustice. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor at Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to ask questions or make comments about today’s message, please send him an email to

No comments: