There aren’t adequate modifiers to describe the horror of the trigger-happy violence – by police and against police – in the U.S. In every way, on every side, this has been a day so despicably devoid of light.
And while we rightly feel both outrage and despair, remember, there is another way. Things can be different.
Let me highly recommend you take 40 minutes and watch the video below of Kevin Vickers. He was a career police officer and the Canadian parliamentary Sergeant-at-Arms who fatally shot the Parliament Hill killer. This speech will give you the needed hope to face the news of today.
I attended the Faith at 150 event where Vickers spoke and was mesmerized by his simple, homey ways that masked an approach to policing so at odds with what we’ve been witnessing – something so ordinary yet filled with extraordinary and uncommon grace.
Here is a quick sampling of highlights (with video times if you need to skip through):
On interrogating suspects: “Every time I would enter an interrogation room, I would say to myself: “Regardless of how repulsive the crime, I will always respect the dignity of the person.” (13:18)
On hospitality as a policing tool: during a native stand-off in the Burnt Church crisis, Vickers extends a simple act of hospitality, having two of his officers bring jugs of coffee and donuts to those across the line. (16:40)
On the last tool of policing: “there are many tools in the toolbox for a police officer. But the last tool you ever want to use is the tool of enforcement. There are many tools – facilitation, respect, education, communication, dialogue … the tool of enforcement is the tool of last resort.” (18:30)
On prayer and policing: with a violent confrontation brewing, Vickers meets with the warriors and calls them to prayer in his police car. (19:50)
On forgiveness: about the incident for which he is now a public figure, the shooting of the Parliament Hill killer, Vickers says: “I’m not proud of my actions on Oct. 22 … but I’ll tell something that I am proud of … it is probably one of the proudest moments of my life that I said a prayer and asked for forgiveness for the man I shot.” (34:00)
Please don’t take this as a smug Canadian preening the virtuous example of a superior policing culture. Not so, because Vickers himself also names ugly realities among his own colleagues (14:58 and 24:05). The same dynamics at play south of the border cross the border of every heart.
Instead, receive this as the hope of the gospel at work, often unseen amidst the explosions of alienation and violence, the hope that things can be different, the hope that the tools of policing can be donuts and prayers – a lovely contemporary riff on the prophetic dream of Isaiah 2:4.