Servant-Leadership in Law Enforcement
Those of us serving in law enforcement understand what those outside our profession do not — that most of the real stress we deal with on a daily basis comes not from what we see on “the street” but rather from that we endure on “the inside” via a lack of genuine servant-leadership. Accordingly, a huge part of what I do both in ministry and as an instructor is teaching on the importance of bringing about radical change to our God-ordained (Romans 13:1-4) profession by infusing it with authentic, biblical SERVANT-leaders from the ground up.
“God-ordained” you say? Biblical? What about “separation of church and state?” Right off, understand that as a Christian who is both an active law enforcement officer AND a police chaplain, I’m constantly dealing with those who pull the “separation” card. Let’s quickly put that to rest: it’s not in the Constitution! On the contrary, Christians do not lose their First Amendment protections when we raise our hand and take an oath (one that hopefully still ends with “So help me God!”). Moreover, and despite the growing persecution of Christians both in law enforcement and society in general, being a Christian and a cop are by no means mutually exclusive.
What is the most recognized police motto? “To serve and protect.” Many of us “old timers” had to memorize and recite the original Law Enforcement Code of Ethics (LINK — http://ethics.iit.edu/ecodes/node/3354). That Code, which still hangs on my office wall above my Bible, begins with “…my fundamental duty is to serve mankind…” and ends with “…dedicating myself before God to my chosen profession…” Folks, regardless of rank, we are ALL called to be servant-leaders, and if we truly wish to re-invent our profession, regain public trust, make a real difference in our communities and positively impact on our abhorrent rates of police suicide, alcoholism, divorce and PTSD, then we’re going to have to become true servant-leaders.
So what does that look like? Robert Greenleaf, in his classic essay, The Servant as Leader [LINK — https://www.greenleaf.org/what-is-servant-leadership/], wrote, “The servant-leader is servant first…” Likewise, Jesus Christ – the greatest “cop”, leader and warrior in history (Exodus 15:3) – urged His followers to be servants first when He said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28; also Mark 10:42-45, Philippians 2:1-7, etc.)
Jesus went to demonstrate (dare I say “train” and “mentor”) this mindset when “He took a towel” in John 13:2-5, washed the feet of His disciples (His “officers”) and then commanded them to carry it forward by serving one another and ministering to others (in Jesus’ day, washing the filth off the feet of visitors was a task reserved for the lowliest of household servants).
Can you begin to grasp the impact we can have in our agencies and communities when we lead (serve) and police with this mindset? Regardless of faith, if we truly wish to transform our profession, marriages, families, communities and country as a whole, it is essential that we adopt a radical (the word simply means “root” – as in getting back to the basics), Bible-based, servant-leadership model.
Understand that servant-leadership is not about power or position, although it can be present in one who has power as well as position. Rather, it is about a life modeled after that of Jesus who came into this world for the express purpose of serving others. With this in mind, true servant-leaders seek to be one with their community and those God has placed in our care. Rest assured, if you have been placed by God in a position of authority and therefore leadership, He has commanded you to serve, honor, trust, empower and encourage others in a spirit of dignity and respect.
Now does this mean that servant-leadership somehow prevents us from arresting offenders or using appropriate force (up to and including deadly force) when necessary? From being servant-warriors? Absolutely not! Let me explain by sharing the meaning of the passage of Scripture I opened this article with: God gave us Romans 13:1-4 as our authority and commission as LEOs in particular and for civil government in general. Consider this proper exegetical paraphrase of verse 4 from this passage: “Cops – God’s ministers for good and a terror against evil…we do not bear the sword in vain.” The Greek for “minister” as used here simply means SERVANT. Is that you? Are you the servant-leader God called you to be? Are you serving your people? You should be! With His help, you most certainly can be!