Behind the Badge

imgres-10In 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.

OC Sheriff Sandra Hutchens & Sgt. Mike Gonzalez 3.14.16
Doug Webster, Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, SAPD Sgt. Mike Gonzalez

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 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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by Doug Webster
Jesus College

Jesus College trains & resources leaders to mentor neighbors to love each other like the Master.

My First Ramadan Iftar

Ramadan.2 - 6.29.16
Ramadan, 2016, Irvine, CA

The invitation to my first Muslim Ramadan “iftar” – the meal breaking the day’s fast – was a privilege afforded me as a member of Orange County, CA Sheriff Sandra Hutchens’ Interfaith Advisory Council. I was warmly welcomed as an honored guest to a delicious meal enlivened with engaging conversation. A very informative video explained Ramadan and the iftar meal. I was humbled by the infrequency of the discipline of fasting in my own spiritual journey, let alone an annual, month long, daily dawn to sunset fast.

Here are ten pithy observations from my blindly W.A.S.P. vantage point between a familiar American Christianity and the Muslim faith invoking dynamic conversations worldwide.

ONE – I was greeted by a few Muslim women wearing a “hijab” headdress. Nearly half of Americans including a substantial portion of American Christians support legislation and politicians who empower women’s rights such as the choice to have unprotected sex and then abort an unwanted fetal consequence. Americans embedded in our sexually titillating society deem it incomprehensible for a woman to be compelled to cover her head in public. It seems so religious.

TWO – Admittedly, difficulty pronouncing names encumbers my social interaction. I know, how shallow of me to be concerned over misspeaking a name a few times. Okay, every time. I met a sweet woman Emine named after the mother of their Prophet. Think “Mary”. After concentrated effort, I still garbled her name. When I introduced her to a new Muslim acquaintance, I couldn’t pronounce his name I heard minutes prior. The first gracious woman I met at the door was the event emcee and a board member of the host organization. She said her name twice after I stumbled the first time. Her name was Cassandra. This awkward Anglo’s over-Arabicizing blunder messed up an easy name.

THREE – Confession #2, (#3 if you include my fast-light habits), I don’t have Muslim friends. Not even casual friends like your kid’s team parents you acquaint at the post game pizza party. Our former neighbors across the street were Muslims we didn’t befriend beyond cordial, curbside chats. Yes, she wore a hijab.

FOUR – Ramadan is a Muslim’s discipline of fasting every day of the 9th month of Islam’s calendar. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam along with Testimony, Prayer, Almsgiving and Pilgrimage to Mecca. I believe most American Christians rarely, if ever, fast. It seems so religious. We’re too busy to fast. We use fast to describe food not denounce food. Few practice consistently spiritual disciplines including the “Golden Three” Jesus presumes in the Sermon on the Mount as habitual – “When you give…” (like tithing), “When you pray…When you fast”. Forget the obligation to a once in a lifetime, better yet annually, travel to our Mecca unless Disneyland qualifies.

FIVE – Muhammad was not only a prophet, teacher and leader, he was a warrior. He was more Joshua than Jesus, more President General Eisenhower than Billy Graham. Followers of Jesus join the military but Jesus never led an army into battle. Muhammad did.

SIX – Annihilation of the infidels by ISIS and other radical terrorists is driven by their self proclaimed obedience to Islam. In light of these atrocities, my Muslim fellow Council members, plus every speaker at the Ramadan iftar, stated emphatically the radical jihadists do not reflect their faith. We American Christians have so many flavors of “Christian”, whether the Protestant plethora or Catholic singularity, we easily differentiate from and do not take responsibility for “The Troubles” of the Irish 30 years ago let alone the Crusades a millennium ago. Such distinction is not easily parsed for Muslims.

SEVEN – Separation of church and state in American politics is starkly different from how some see Islam in the purest form through Sharia Law. Christian voters and politicians bring their faith into the public square as values not doctrine. Many consider Islam irrevocably socio-political.

EIGHT – Muslims revere the prophet Jesus while American Christians have little regard for Muhammad. To a follower of Jesus, Jesus is the only way of salvation. Muhammad is Islam’s true and final prophet who was preceded by the prophet Jesus but not subordinate to Jesus. Christlike Muslim doctrines and values exist in Islam but Muslims do not resurrect the prophet Jesus as the incarnate God who is Savior and Lord. Descendants of Father Abraham’s rivaled offspring Isaac through Yeshua (Jesus) and Ishmael through Muhammad still struggle coalescing a respectful disagreement for the greater good of our global community.

NINE – As only a child can accomplish, during our meal, a precious, blonde hair, blue eyed, little girl named Fatima brought much life to our table and the gathering. A child with her kind mother (in a hijab) and friendly, bearded father of Turkish descent celebrating a meal as a family in their faith community is a universal picture of the love, joy and peace we all want in and outside our homes. I heard in my mind, “Unless you change and become like a child, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

TEN – Jesus’ commission to “Love your neighbor” defined my Ramadan iftar experience eloquently expressed in the unplanned, recurring theme of each speaker. This is a kingdom we can all seek first. Our gracious host Cassandra finished our gathering in tears, uttering softly, “There’s too much killing, too much.” She bid us goodnight from the depth of her heart. The unity of humanity transcended difference and buried indifference.

by Doug Webster

Jesus College – Mentoring Apprentices to Love their Neighbor

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More Jesus College resources

   – “The Way”  – a just released Small Group study curriculum by Tim Timmons, Sr.

   – “Drones, ISIS & Youth Ministry” article by Doug Webster, The Christian Post