From the Editor: Police need to feel the public’s support while at work

When Krista Miller awoke to the news of an officer-involved shooting at a New Hope City Council meeting Tuesday morning, she was stunned.

The Elk River woman’s only hope was that a community prayer meeting for the providence and protection of law enforcement she orchestrated the Sunday before helped keep two officers alive who had been shot in a confrontation with a man who opened fire on police after two new officers were sworn in moments earlier.

Some of the drama on Jan. 25 was captured on video in New Hope’s council chambers where the shots were heard and one bullet reportedly came through a doorway. Council members and city staff took cover under direction of one of their fellow council members who was also a Minneapolis police officer.

Police outside the council chambers, who were congratulating their two newest officers, shot and killed the man who opened fire on them.

“It wasn’t out of vengeance that the officers did this,” Miller said. “It was done to protect themselves and the others who were in the building.”

Miller is concerned that people have lost sight of reality and are taking an unwarranted dim view of law enforcement. She also says that the media is cultivating many of the negative stereotypes of police in America. She came to this conclusion after visiting the Mall of America and then hearing about the protest that happened the following day there.

Miller was appalled at the negative tone directed at law enforcement. It bothered her that this type of storyline came out of her own state of Minnesota.

When she prayed about it that night, she asked what could she do. The answer she discerned was to hold an event of her own, one that would lift up law enforcement and pray for officers who put their lives on the line day in and day out.

About 50 people attended the event held at Central Lutheran Church in Elk River. Speakers helped dismantle some of the stereotypes and softened the image of police and county deputies.

Miller, a prayer intercessor at Hardy and Stephens Counseling in Elk River, said there will be another meeting this year. She’s hoping no later than this fall. It could come sooner.

The prayers at this first meeting addressed the choices officers have in their daily lives, including some that are those split-second decisions. They talked about the hope they can have and how important it is to have that hope be continually stirred. They talked about trust that’s needed between the public and them.

The prayers also addressed officers’ servant hearts and that they remain that way.

The prayers also addressed the media, asking media outlets to tell the truth and to be compelled to tell the positive sides of all the good officers of the law do.

Barb Hinkle, who works with Miller, was one of the attendees. She was blown away by it. She said she has always respected police and the law enforcement profession, but the speakers opened her eyes to give her a better understanding of what it’s like to live in the world that officers of the law live in.

“They can’t come home and talk about their day, like you or I can,” Hinkle said. “They can’t go out with their family without a heightened awareness because they never know who they might encounter.

“We’re all grateful to have police there when we have an emergency, but some of us might resent seeing lights (from a police squad) when we’re pulled over for a routine traffic stop.”

Among the speakers were detective Eric Balabon, who Miller said did an excellent job expressing the needs and hardships of those in law enforcement from a personal perspective.  Lonnie Titus, the chaplain for the Minnesota House of Representatives, also spoke. So did others like Jim Beard, pastor of United Methodist Church, who spoke of a goddaughter who is in law enforcement.

Thank you to Miller for orchestrating this. Thank you also to the people who were willing to speak and put a face on officers of the law. It’s good to know another meeting, one more widely publicized, is in the works. Our community should fill Zabee Theater.

Such gatherings are needed to bring balance to the discussion on matters such as race relations. What’s happening in America is not an us vs. them.

While flames of distrust are being fanned, there needs to be efforts to put water on falsehoods. I’m also convinced America is not as down on law enforcement as one might think. The same can be said for race relations.

A classroom of Adult Basic Education students, mostly Hispanic speaking, concluded the same thing recently when they talked about their experiences in the Elk River area. They talked of working hard and making an honest living, and they too found reports on the evening news troubling.

They questioned what if for every report on poor race relations there were more 10 reports on positive race relations? What if the same were true of law enforcement professionals?

They pointed to a video that went viral on Facebook showing Missouri officers (yes, Missouri) pulling people over for following the traffic laws and presenting unsuspecting motorists a $100 bill that had been donated.

It was clear even before they were given the cash, race relations were not as they are being portrayed in America’s Heartland.

But here’s why I think it’s so critical for counter messages to surface. Think about young men and women considering a career in law enforcement. Think of the two that were just sworn in down in New Hope being among the officers shot at.

At what point do they reconsider such careers? At what point do veterans on police forces lose hope? What they see and do on a daily basis is unfathomable to most. I have to believe that an encouraging word from members of the public, a prayer service dedicated to lifting them up and efforts to show the good officers of law are doing in their community would go a long way to strengthen police forces and the communities they serve. — Jim Boyle, editor