In the post–Rodney King era of the videotape, law-enforcement agencies have come under increasing scrutiny by the public. Police are expected to enforce the law firmly yet justly, but finding a balance that satisifies all the people they serve seems to be more difficult than ever.
Steve Lee, a Colorado Springs police chaplain and executive director of Peace Officer Ministries (POM), has an insider's understanding of the police profession. Many cops, he says, are isolated, conflicted, and in desperate need of understanding and grace.
After a career in law enforcement, Lee attended seminary and was ordained in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod in 1992. He spent several years as a missionary in the Ivory Coast and returned to the U.S. to launch POM in 1996. He has ministered in critical situations, including the Focus on the Family hostage crisis of 1996 and last year's Columbine High School massacre. CT senior writer Wendy Zoba spoke with Lee recently at his Colorado Springs office.
As a Christian ministering to the law-enforcement community, what do you see as this group's most crucial needs?
Law enforcement is a subculture, and you have to understand that subculture in order to minister effectively. Police have their own language, norms, mores, and rituals. Anytime you have an identifiable subculture, you have, by definition, a distancing from the main culture.
Our ideas about police officers are often formed by media, and we have a stereotypical view of these folks. We don't quite view them as real people. With shows like Cops, you only see the chases. You don't see the officer sitting there for two or three hours waiting, the slow shifts, or the paperwork. We see them as a badge and a gun. We don't understand that they're ...1