In the Spring of 2015 I was invited to meet with Orange County’s top cop – Sheriff Sandra Hutchens. My new friend Tom Thorkelson, Director of LDS Interfaith Relations, thought I would find the meeting valuable and surprisingly so, I might contribute to it. Reverend Mark Whitlock of Christ Our Redeemer A.M.E. Church, a black pastor with extensive experience interfacing with multi-racial communities, hosted the event. Sheriff Hutchens wanted to proactively engage community leaders before our County faced an event of Ferguson or Baltimore proportions. Her instincts could not have been more spot on and timely.
At the end of the introductory meeting, the Sheriff invited the very diverse gathering of clerics – Protestant, Evangelical, Baptist, Catholic, Mormon, Unitarian Universalist, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Pentecostal and more – to advise her on building relationships within our community. The next gathering was hosted by the Sheriff at their nationally acclaimed training academy. The Sheriff’s brainchild with consult from clerics like Pastor Whitlock gave birth to the OC Sheriff’s Interfaith Advisory Council. We’ve been meeting every other month to build respect and rapport with each other while advising how to best enforce law and order in our county.
The brains and the heart behind the badge integrate a savvy and sincere effort by an astute leader to protect and serve our county-wide community in an increasingly divided nation. Whether it is politicians or pundits, law enforcers or those fearful of the enforcers, suburbanites or urban dwellers fretting in the face of civil unrest, “What do we do now?”, I stand behind Orange County’s badge. My strong advice – follow Sheriff Hutchens lead.
What can we citizens do? Here are nine ways I am striving to bolster the badge to make Orange County fruitful of the good life at a time when America begs for civil unity.
- Pray for Cops…by name. No longer just offer “God, bless the police.” Bring up the ones you know and seek to know. I now pray for Sheriff Hutchens, Undersheriff Barnes, Assistant Sheriff Solorza, Recruiting Deputies Curtis & Dolan, Santa Ana PD Sergeant Gonzalez, Irvine PD Chief Maggard added to the cops & CHP I know. Individualized prayers personalize people.
- Defend Cops – The next time someone says, “Yeah, cops these days, they’re all…”, speak up for the ones you know personally.
- Love Cops – Love means to seek the good of the beloved. Practical ways to love our neighbor become evident when our intent is their well being.
- Join Cops – I recently brought six potential recruits to meet with our Undersheriff. I have referred three more to the agency. The OCSD is a dynamic group of community servants with races, roles and backgrounds as diverse as the county we call home. If you want good cops, refer good people to cops.
- Befriend Cops – Cops have families. Cops like food. Cops go to sporting events, movies, the mall, the beach. Invite them next time you play.
- Celebrate Cops – Bring them up front in your next fellowship gathering, office party, kid’s team meeting, PTA. Cheer them on publicly. Say “Thank you!” to their face.
- Serve Cops – There are simple ways law enforcement can benefit from us like gift cards to feed themselves, their kids, clean their car, launder their clothes, fill their tank. Carry gift cards from In-N-Out Burger (my OC native addiction) and you’ll see how much fun it is to give them away. Warning: you might have to be stealth or deploy a 3rd party to accomplish the transaction.
- Obey Cops – Pull over when you see flashing lights. You might need their quick response soon. Get out of the car when asked. Provide I.D. Take your hands out of your pockets. Use “Officer” or “Deputy”. This does not mean we do not expect and require law enforcement to be respectful, courteous, safe, prudent, controlled and without prejudice. Interestingly, the OCSD trains recruits to respect everyone they encounter while attentive to what they call “Contempt for Cop” so prevalent today.
- Feed Cops – After our first OCSD Interfaith Advisory Council afternoon meeting, I said, “We’re all scrambling to grab a sandwich or salad before we get here. Why don’t we make it a working lunch.” Another council member suggested, “What if one of us hosts each meeting and provide the food?” We have since met at the Sikh Center, a Muslim Mosque and we’re headed back to the A.M.E. Church. We have savored some very tasty cultural food. Each gathering starts with the host offering a brief bio on their religious community. My mentor Jesus presented powerful teaching moments over food…and unleashed some of his most harsh critics because of who He ate with. Food feeds friendship.
This most unusual fellowship of brothers & sisters was brought together by the least expected host – the local Sheriff. I recently attended my first Ramadan iftar. And, I was just invited to a NAACP event. Imagine me, a W.A.S.P.ie kid from Orange County, celebrating with neighbors as new friends.
If you look behind the badge in our fruity county, you’ll find one cop and her posse as a model and inspiration leading a nation into healing and unity.
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Jesus College trains & resources leaders to mentor neighbors to love each other like the Master.