The Loss of One

When an officer is killed in the line of duty, the Thin Blue Line becomes, at once, thinner and still stronger.

Who has not suffered loss? Who has not, in quiet of those moments as the soul awakens at the dawn of a new day, sought to understand the questions of why? In searching to understand the nature of loss, I find that those who have written before me seem to be focused on the how and why and not the more important questions of why not and what’s next? Certainly, there are those who have penned volumes on how to overcome grief, to move on in life; but, that is not my meaning.

The question of what is next, when we face the loss of one so dear to us, is not one of, how do I cope with life without my loved one; nor is it, what comes next for the soul who has ceased to walk his earthbound road. For the Christ-follower, those questions have been answered through the lives of those before us and in the sacred pages of Scripture. The sure and certain hope of a resurrection to new life answers the latter and the former is clearly understood by our desire of the heart to serve the Lord no matter what station of life He has allowed for us. Our direction for the way in which we should go and the strength by which to travel that road are found in the Apostle’s words, ‘This life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.’ Strength of resolve, strength of faith is given to us by God’s Holy Spirit as we have both the need for it and the vessel within which to carry it. One of our purposes before such a crisis is to grow closer to Christ so that He may form us into just such a vessel.

I have also found in my years of observing our human condition that intertwined with our spirituality is that a true sense of immortality is present in each of us. We know, even though we may not understand, that our being realizes that we are meant to live forever and that there is only but the changing of one form, destructible, for another, the immortal. Even the most secular of minds seems to realize that even as his body has aged, the person that he is, inside, is the same as when he was decades younger. Though certainly wiser, we hope and matured. One author wrote that, as we age that which we express as virtue is more related to a lack of energy than a strength of will. Still, we move forward in the ever-diminishing race of time and, as we go, we find that with each loss of some part of ourselves there is a corresponding increase in another for which we had little awareness previously. The loss of the ability to move any great distance is replaced by an appreciation for those things close at hand. It is with this line of thinking stirring inside of me that I pause to consider the loss of yet another law enforcement officer at the hands of a felon.

The Thin Blue Line stands as a symbol of the impervious nature of our commitment to keep anarchy from reaching the civilization, seen in the microcosm of our homes and neighborhoods, our communities and towns that we so dearly love; more for the people who are in them than for the brick and mortar of which they are made. When an officer is killed in the line of duty; the Thin Blue Line becomes, at once, thinner and still stronger. The loss of one may be but a ripple in the thousands who bear the badge of authority daily to keep The Line strong here in America; yet, still that ripple will reach every single member of that army of knights sworn to do battle for the king. Not only the knights, but each of their respective families. There is a true sense of there but by the grace of God go I. None are immune to the possibility that each day that shift may be their own EOW (End of Watch) so every single death is felt by the thousands.

One would think that such thoughts would have a debilitating effect upon the forces of good who seek to restrain evil that raises its repulsive head. Like the nemeses of ancient times, the Hydra – as each vile head was cut off, another grew in its place; the strength of the Thin Blue Line seems to react to the loss of even a single officer by becoming even more resilient. If human characteristics can be given to an image like The Line, its determination grows with each strike against it. Any attempt to breach The Line by an assault against one of its own can be the precursor for its growth in its ability to endure and its resolve to never fail. Perhaps those human characteristics that we confer to The Line are merely reflections of those characteristics of the men and women and the families that make up that very real personality that we respectfully call the Thin Blue Line. It is humbly, then, that we come before God and ask that He continue to bless all who stand The Line; that He would protect the warriors as they seek to battle the forces of evil who seek to destroy. For we know, just as we sense our own immortality; that this battle is not ours; but His, and that He has already won the ultimate victory. We know, too, that our job is to stand strong in His strength and to be girded with the armor that the Apostle Paul described in Ephesians chapter 6; the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth, the sandals of the Good News of the Gospel of Peace, the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit.

Perhaps the resilience of the Thin Blue Line comes from the blessings each member of The Line receives from God. For as Paul writes in the same passage in Ephesians, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” 1 Certainly the death of one of our own diminishes us all, in some regard; but, it also brings us back to the source of our strength. Our strength can be renewed and we then can fly upon eagles’ wings.

UNPINNED REVISITED

Sometime back I began a post that I titled, ‘Unpinned’. It was a reference to those of us who have retired from law enforcement. I realized this evening that I never finished that post. Allow me to begin again. Here are the first lines from the long ago post that never posted…

I have been connected, as most of you that have been following my writing for any period of time know, for several decades with law enforcement. It has been very difficult to ever see myself as ever truly separated from it. I have written, in times past, under the blog title of “Unpinned” which carried the picture of a badge with the pin open. My argument is that for those of us who are retired, the badge may be unpinned but it is never gone. You hear, at times, that there is no such thing as an ex-Marine and I think, for those who truly bleed blue as a life-long law enforcement officer, it is as true. That can have positive and negative consequences and it remains always for those who have such a dedication to their given profession, (many of us would use the term calling), to keep in a healthy balance family life and the job.

Even as I write this, my son is on patrol on midnight shift for the department from which I retired as Chief. I see, in him and in the comradery he has with the other cops (as well as some of the frustrations that come) quite a bit of myself so many years ago. However, he is going into the crucible of public police work in a much different era than I. When I began, America was just post-Vietnam. I was one of the last to enter the military during the time designated, the Vietnam Era. There was plenty of social unrest; but, it was mostly name calling and rock throwing. Today, it is assassinations from snipers at multiple locations without mercy.

Most of the retired – unpinned – cops I know still carry their credentials and with thanks to the H.W. Bush Administration, their firearms under the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act. We maintain our regular qualification at the same standards of officers working the streets. The retirees I know would stop to help an officer in trouble without a second thought for their own safety. Some might say that such retirees are not just unpinned, they’re unhinged! That may be more true than we want to admit! The inexplicable bond that comes from such a shared experience of law enforcement cannot be severed by time, age or distance. Many retirees may have angst toward the system which they left; but, never would they permit a brother officer to stand alone if they were in any way capable of standing with them… and when I use the term brother that is neutral to sex and determined only by the blue blood that courses through the veins.

This is a time when such a brotherhood must band together. At the same time, it must not erect a fortress wall against every citizen because there are armies of citizens who support that for which cops stand and are prepared to link arm-in-arm with them to keep the thin blue line resilient and strong. In my upcoming book, I use the term stretching the thin blue line for the way in which supportive citizens and the blue officers can stand as a force against evil and defy those who would seek to terrorize our homes.

Our local church now has a hired off-duty law enforcement officer at each service. Men of the church have dedicated themselves to meet with whichever officer happens to have the duty and before the day begins to pray with him. They pray for his safety, for the church, for his family and the community. Not once has the offer to pray been declined; but, every time it has been appreciated.

A local Christian university has just begun a four-year degree program in criminal justice. There is no better time for men and women studying to enter law enforcement or to improve their knowledge while in the career to receive such training from a faith-based, biblical standpoint. If you have never questioned and studied why you believe what you believe, you will believe anything. A bumper sticker bit of wisdom says that if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything! An unexamined faith will never grow and the days in which police officers are now doing battle with the forces of evil requires a vibrant and burgeoning faith. Such a faith does not recoil for political correctness and as the Apostle Paul admonished, it does not grow weary in doing good.

If ever there was a time of vibrant opportunity for seasoned and retired law enforcement officers, who are men and women of faith, to take a hand in helping to nurture and challenge these current officers, it is now. America needs law enforcement officers who understand their work to be more than a calling. It is a ministry, God-given and God-blessed. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9 NKJV) Law enforcement officers walk every day and night along the thin line that touches evil on every point yet also touches goodness at corresponding points. To live within such a tension requires a strong faith in something. Most, who do know have a personal relationship with Christ Jesus, would struggle to define what it is that founds their faith except that they know there is something greater than themselves which is holding that line taut. It is little wonder, though, that when Jesus met a Gentile man of whom He declared had greater faith than any of the nation of Israel, that man was a 1st Century Roman police officer, a Centurion. (Matthew 8:10) Today is a day when America needs New Centurions of Faith. Thankfully, there are multitudes of them on the streets this very night holding strong in the battle against evil. If you have not prayed for them lately, please pray for them now. If you have not spoken to one lately and told them you support them, commit to doing so today and, if you have never asked a police officer if you can pray for him or her, I challenge you to do so. You will be overwhelmed by the response you receive.

On the back of my motorcycle helmet is a shield with a blue line through a field of black. It says, ‘to some this is just a thin blue line… to others it is a family crest.’ I may be unpinned. My family may even tell you that I’m unhinged. One thing I’m certain of and that is my Christ is who saw me through my career, even when I did not acknowledge Him and He stands ready to carry the next generation of cops to the end of their tours of duty, in whatever way that may come. I would ask every retired cop, who has faith in Christ, to join me in a strong commitment to do whatever it takes to uphold these new centurions in prayer each and every day.

 

Citizenship 101

Recent events and discussions with persons that one would think would have a reasonable education and thereby an awareness of how the Constitution is to be applied in a nation governed by law have led me to question whether such ideals are truly understood. What seems to be lacking is an understanding of the responsibility, better yet, the obligation or duty that every citizen has to uphold the laws of their nation. Citizens have a duty to change unjust laws by appropriate legislation and see to it that government officials who are alleged to have abused their office are charged in a court of law.  I would expect that reasonably educated people today would understand those principles of citizenship. Experience has shown me that is not necessarily the case. Persons of more than average intelligence and education seem to have become ignorant of the duties of a citizen in a nation that is established by laws. So, to do a small part to try to alleviate the ignorance that so easily besets us as a people here in the United States, I offer this primer on citizenship.

A good place to begin, I think, is the oath that someone who is becoming a citizen of the United States is required to take. Certainly, it is taken voluntarily.  Simply put, if they do not wish to take the oath or abide by the law of the land then, they are free to live somewhere else on the globe but not in the United States of America. That is a refreshing notion for those who have been born citizens of the USA and have little esteem for our Constitution or our laws. They should be free to, in fact encouraged to, find someplace else on the globe where they would like to live.

Here is the oath. It is simple yet, of great depth.

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

Since this is a primer, I won’t assume that the oath was completely clear to the reader. Here are the basic points. The citizen-to-be declares that they will:

  1. Support the Constitution;
  2. Renounce and abjure absolutely and entirely all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which the applicant was before a subject or citizen;
  3. Support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;
  4. Bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and
  5. Bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; or
    B. Perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; or
    C. Perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law.

For the sake of brevity in this primer, I will focus on only one point.

“I will support… the Constitution”

The Constitution is not a very long document, even so, let us look just at the Preamble, the introduction if you will, of the document a citizen of the United States has a duty to support. The Preamble reads:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The purposes:

  • to form a more perfect, a better union between the individual sovereign states
  • establish Justice
  • insure domestic Tranquility
  • provide for the common defence (old English spelling)
  • promote the general Welfare
  • secure the Blessing of Liberty
    • to ourselves and our posterity

Notice that certain words are capitalized, not by me but in the document: Justice, Tranquility, Welfare (that doesn’t mean a government check on the first of the month or food stamps) and Blessings of Liberty – One can assume that these are important to our Founding Fathers, of these, perhaps we should take special note.

Justice – everyone equal under the law – meaning that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Sometimes, in the defense of one’s own or another’s life, a person may be killed in the commission of a crime so the actions of the person taking his life will be judged before the court, even if it is a police officer, the court has jurisdiction… and what applies to the perpetrator of the crime also applies to the officer – ‘innocent until proven guilty’ EVERYONE equal under the law.

Tranquility – the ability to live our lives in peace, without fear of coercion from the government or threats of violence from those who do NOT follow the law. Who is to have a tranquil life – if the Constitution is ruling? The answer is EVERY citizen. Every citizen whether they be brown, black, white, gay, straight, Buddhist or Baptist. What may surprise those with whom I cannot apparently communicate well is that EVERY also includes COPS! Every person should be able to go to their work peacefully and expect to return to their homes at the end of their work, peaceably, to retire and live peacefully. Yes, certain professions such as cops have accepted risk but that does not mean to be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. Perhaps an example will make my point better than I can communicate it…

If I am living next to Joe, he and I should EXPECT that we can live in our neighborhood together, peacefully – in Tranquility. But, sometimes things happen. Perhaps Joe does not like the way I mow my grass in circles rather than in strips. So one day, Joe walks over to me and punches me in the nose. He has the right to swing his fist… I mean, it’s his fist! BUT, his right to swing his fist STOPS where my nose BEGINS! My nose has a right, as a part of me, to live my life in Tranquility and that does NOT include Joe’s fist to my nose!

Now, I have been assaulted. Under a nation of LAWS, I have a legal right to swear out a complaint and have Joe arrested. However, if Joe keeps pummeling me and I cannot get away, I have right to self-defense. But, in this case, Joe punches me once in the nose and then goes back home. I do NOT have the right to now walk over to Joe’s house and punch Joe in the nose. In a nation of laws, my DUTY to uphold the law is to follow the procedure and swear out a complaint.

ALSO, I do NOT have the right to go across the street from my house and punch Fred in the nose because Joe punched me in the nose. Fred has a right to his own domestic Tranquility and he doesn’t even mow his lawn so, he has nothing in this dispute between Joe and me. I cannot punch FRED for any reason but I particularly cannot punch FRED for something JOE did – EVEN IF Fred is Joe’s brother!

Someone brings the argument that because Joe goes around punching people in the nose (even though he only did it once to me) that Fred DESERVES to be hit because he is Joe’s brother. In fact, Fred has hundreds of brothers, maybe thousands. Fred and Joe’s father was a very well-liked guy and they have lots and lots of brothers. A few of the brothers are just like Joe. Every once-in-awhile, they punch someone in the nose – at least that’s what someone said to somebody who reported it to a news outlet… We don’t really know for sure how many of Joes’ brothers ever really did punch somebody and we don’t know if it might have been self-defense but, in today’s thinking, that doesn’t matter.

So – according to today’s reasoning, ANYONE at all, even if they never met me or do not know me at all and never met anyone else who happened to have been punched by another brother of Joe’s – ANYONE has the “right” to not respect ANY of the brothers! In fact, if the brothers who do punch people would stop, then maybe, ANYONE might respect the other brothers too… but since they don’t respect them, even though the other brothers have never punched anything but a timeclock in their whole lives – ANYONE can go out and punch any of the brothers in the nose anytime they want to – it is all the brother’s fault because Joe and some of the others have punched somebody somewhere at some time – we think – at least that is what the media told us, we don’t have any real facts – but we don’t need them –

One of the other things ANYONE who is punching the other brothers’ noses seems to forget is that UNDER A NATION of LAW: 1. Even if Joe is accused of punching me in the nose, he is still innocent until proven guilty and 2. All the other brothers (the non-hitting ones) they have a RIGHT under the LAW to live in domestic Tranquility. They might be Joe’s brother but they are CITIZENS too and THEY HAVE RIGHTS TOO! 3. By punching people’s noses ANYONE is breaking the law! EVERY citizen has a DUTY to NOT break the law. When they do THEY are the criminals.

For the sake of time, let’s look lastly at: secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity. What does that mean? It means, simply, that EVERY citizen of the United States has a right to work hard, strive to learn, achieve some reward for your labor, to be able to travel wherever and whenever one desires (as long as one has the means – that is the money, a car and the privilege to drive that car – without being harassed or abused, to work to save money and retire peacefully – if health permits to enjoy a quiet Tranquil life and that we will pass these same benefits of living in a Nation of Laws to our children and to their children…

Are some people harassed when they drive? – that likely happens though I do not have facts and figures to substantiate it, some things are true in common knowledge even if they aren’t – Accepting that it likely happens, what may be surprising is that it happens not just to people of color but it happens to young people – because of their age, it happens to older people – because of their age; it happens to people of certain sexual inclinations or even religious affiliations – Bad things happen, sadly, all the time; but they can happen to just about ANY citizen. Do some have it happen to them disproportionately? I’m certain they do; but I don’t have numbers to prove it. Here is the point though about being a nation of LAWS.

Those who are harassed in any way whatsoever have a legitimate LEGAL recourse for the settlement of their grievances. In an open court with a trier of the FACTS and with appellate courts to oversee them – their grievances can be redressed. That is a Blessing of Liberty.

The excuses come – the courts are crooked… it costs too much… no one will believe me … Well, in part its true, the system isn’t perfect; but, it is still the LAW and without the LAW there is anarchy. Remember ANYONE from our example? In anarchy, ANYONE who feels that they have been grieved (or even just someone else they don’t even know has been grieved and they somehow feel a kinship to those folks) – can go out in a public street and murder persons who are COPS, LEGAL representatives of the GOVERNMENT that ANYONE has sworn to support. ANYONE is murdering these INDIVIDUALS who are CITIZENS themselves with RIGHTS of their own and HUMAN BEINGS with people who love, need and will greatly miss them.

The Thin Blue Line is the symbol of law enforcement. It’s meaning is very appropriate today. The Thin Blue Line represents that very thin line between civilization and anarchy. Those who are flaunting the law are doing so by trying to destroy the only line that is preventing anarchy from reining in our streets. If injustice is perceived as widespread today just wait until anarchy erases the Thin Blue Line. Who will you call for help then?

For a person who is a citizen of the United States of America to say that another citizen need not obey the law against murder of a fellow human being only because other human beings of a similar job title may have offended, hurt or even killed someone illegally RATHER THAN saying that the citizen who is the aggrieved has a legal remedy and that remedy is the only appropriate avenue for the redress of grievances in a civilized society is, in effect, speaking treason because the ultimate result of such anarchist thinking is the demise of the United States.

In the first century A.D., Rome ruled the known world that is today most of Europe, the Mediterranean, Balkans, through the Middle East. The rulers were cruel and unjust. Local representatives of the government did whatever they pleased to whomever they pleased, including killing anyone who got in their way. A particularly fond target for harassment, threats, assaults, rapes, robberies and murder were Christians. Those who claimed the Name of Christ may as well as hung a target on their back with a death warrant in their pocket. Paul, a missionary and Apostle of the church was an outspoken, driven man. He faced the Roman persecution head-on and was beaten and jailed many times because of it. Paul wrote to the churches, specifically to the church in Rome and rallied them with how they should respond to the ‘open season’ that had been declared against them. Here are his words:

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:9-21 NKJV)

The Thin Blue Line

the ‘Thin Blue Line’ the only thing standing between civilization and total anarchy

 

MINISTRY MINUTE: When there’s only a minute for ministry  Dr. Ross L. Riggs

The following is re-printed here for all retired law enforcement officers and their families: 

Author: Unknown (attributed to Charles Crawford, Chief of Police, Retired)

~

Once the badge goes on, it never comes off, whether they can see it, or not. It fuses to the soul through adversity, fear and adrenaline and no one who has ever worn it with pride, integrity and guts can ever sleep through the ‘call of the wild’ that wafts through  bedroom windows in the deep of the night.

When a good cop leaves the ‘job’ and retires to a better life, many are jealous, some are pleased and yet others, who may have already retired, wonder. We wonder if he knows what he is leaving behind, because we already know. We know, for example, that after a lifetime of camaraderie that few experience, it will remain as a longing for those past times. We know in the law enforcement life there is a fellowship which lasts long after the uniforms are hung up in the back of the closet. We know even if he throws them away, they will be on him with every step and breath that remains in his life. We also know how the very bearing of the man speaks of what he was and in his heart still is.

These are the burdens of the job. You will still look at people suspiciously, still see what others do not see or choose to ignore and always will look at the rest of the law enforcement world with a respect for what they do; only grown in a lifetime of knowing. Never think for one moment you are escaping from that life. You are only escaping the ‘job’ and merely being allowed to leave ‘active’ duty.

So what I wish for you is that whenever you ease into retirement, in your heart you never forget for one moment that ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall be called children of God,’ and you are still a member of the greatest fraternity the world has ever known.

 

There are different professions that sometimes remark as to the way in which those who serve in them continue to share in the passion for the service long after their active duty tour has ended. Most have heard that there is “no such thing as an ex-Marine” and anyone who carries proudly the name veteran understands that statement regardless of their branch of service. Firefighters are a breed of their own as well. But now, as we begin to near the annual Police Memorial Week hosted in Washington D.C. by the Law Enforcement Foundation and Concerns of Police Survivors, it is time to look toward the police service for its commitment to the safety of American citizens and their posterity.

A well-known symbol among law enforcement is a thin blue line upon a black background. The term of the thin line began in the 19th Century between the British Army – Commander William Russell 93rd Sutherland Regiment and the hussars (cavalry units) and Cossacks of the Russian Army fighting at Balaclava in the Crimea (Ukraine). Rather than using four lines of red dressed soldiers to present rolling volleys of fire, he stretched it out to only two lines to cover more area and did not form a square against the cavalry but kept the volleys of fire coming, driving the Russians into retreat. The ‘Thin Red Line’ was carried on to describe the British units stretched across the globe to defend the British Empire.

In the 20th Century the term was adapted to the ‘Thin Blue Line’ the only thing standing between civilization and total anarchy. It is a very thin blue line. There is a very interesting aspect though to the ‘thin blue line.’ That aspect is its strength and its resilience. No other line, so very thin, so continuously attacked, has developed a survivability that can only have two co-joined sources. The first is faith, a complete trust in the God of our fore-fathers and the second is in the camaraderie that comes with the badge and the service above self that it demands.

There is one thing that holds with the cop that grows deep within his soul. It is that blue line, that thin blue line that crosses the heart, wraps the soul and winds its way through the every aspect of that cop’s life. The retired cop’s family knows it all too well. Whether it is that last walk around the house in the evening to double check the locks on the doors or the unspoken rule in every restaurant in every town; Dad is always to have the seat that has his back to the wall and facing the door. There is that one last word of caution before his daughters head out for the evening or the double take at the cop with the car pulled over on the highway as he drives by, slowly, ready to stop if he sees that the cop needs help.

There will  be the day when the caring stops. There will  come a day when he stops thinking like a cop. That is the day he is laid to rest and he signals in EOS.