July 6, 2016

The Police and The Black Community: How ministry leaders should respond

(Edited 9/20/16 in response to the Terence Crutcher police shooting)

Bad blood between the police and the black community is nothing new. In regards to the Alton Sterling shooting, well, here we go again.

I won't politicize this tragedy because the purpose of my blog is not political nor is it meant to be a platform for addressing "social injustices". Nevertheless, I'm a black man who happens to be in ministry, so I won't ignore it, and if you are a ministry leader neither should you.

Why is it that our community has issues with the police?

Why is it that the police (regardless of race) have issues with our community?

I hear ministry leaders and law enforcement officials say, "There are no easy answers" when confronted with this question. I disagree. The problem is people on both sides don't like the answers, because the answers force us to look in the mirror.

The answers force both sides to make some changes. Changes in our environment and personal lives. Changes in our organization and culture. Changes in our thinking and behavior.

In my blog post, Three Key Ingredients to Change, I stated, For things to change, somebody, somewhere has to start behaving differently.

Like the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown tragedy, I'm reserving my opinion until I've gotten all the facts. I learned a long time ago, that you can't form an educated opinion on a matter such as this, if all your information is coming from race hustlers and the media. They have a vested interest in firing up certain communities. It's good for business.

If you are a ministry leader, understand that those you minister to want answers, and solutions, but more importantly, they are looking for your leadership in these situations. Here's how to respond.
  • "Be swift to hear, slow to speak". James 1:19. I certainly understand the concern and even the anger and for some the rage that occurs from issues like this.

    Let me also say that it's alright to be angry. It's a healthy human emotion. However I would caution, Christians and especially ministry leaders to use some wisdom when voicing your opinion and taking action on issues like this.

    You can't preach or teach forgiveness in one breath and "No justice no peace" in another. We must be peace makers not rabble rousers.

  • We can't allow our emotions to get the best of us. Emotions will always cloud our decisions and reasoning. We should be vocal concerning this issue, but we must also set an example. I've wrote about this during the shooting of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown tragedy

  • Provide answers. If not for everybody, at least for those you minister to. Sticking your head in the sand is the wrong answer.

    In today's culture, ministry leaders have to compete with all the outside forces that influence those we lead. Not addressing or ignoring this issue makes you irrelevant. I write about this

    Sticking your head in the sand makes you look like the part sticking out.

  • "Just pray about it" should not be your go to answer when you don't have one.

    This is typically what people say when they don't have an answer but they know the Lord does. However, if you're just saying this just to make the issue go away, it can come across as if you don't care.

    Here's what you could say: pray that God will ease your anger and frustration about this so that we can hear His answer. His answer will always line up with His word and be full of wisdom. See my post, Three distinct characteristics of wisdom.

The following is advice from a black police officer on how our community should respond to the police. 
  1. Be respectful, don’t speak first, and don’t speak with hostility: Getting smart with the cops doesn’t make things better. For at least a short period of time, they have all the power, and you have none. Settle your beef later on, when it’s safe. Also, you’re probably better off not volunteering any information, since many questions are designed to trap you into giving yourself up.

  2. Don’t make any sudden moves and keep your hands on the steering wheel: Being a Black man already makes you suspicious in the eyes of some police officers. Don’t give them anymore reasons to get out of line.

  3. Ask for permission before you grab or reach for anything: Officers are afraid just like you are. Any unexpected grabs may set him/her off and make the officer believe that they are in danger.

  4. Keep a valid photo ID on you: If you have a driver’s license, keep it with you. If not, then keep your student ID or something that allows the officer to know who you are.

  5. Turn on the interior lights of your car so they don’t mistake your cell phone for a handgun: The officer likely wants to know everything that’s going on inside the car at all times.

  6. Keep your license, registration, and insurance in a convenient place: If it’s easy to reach, this keeps things simple and helps to avoid any confusion.

  7. Don’t lie to the officer: This is generally a bad idea. Lying will only add to any charges you might already have.

  8. Don’t give the officer a reason to search your car: If they have reasonable suspicion that you’re hiding something, the officer will then have probable cause to search you. Suspicious behavior, such as shuffling through your personal items right before the stop, can set off alarm bells in the mind of the police officer.
Will this eliminate all police shootings? No. But when it's all said and done, our community along with the police are in this together. 

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