About [12:30] PM Tuesday, 25-year-old Kajieme Powell was shot and killed by two police officers in Saint Louis, just north of Ferguson, Missouri, apparently after robbing a convenience store. The shooting was caught on video.
This video portrays the painful paradox of how a casual moment suddenly, before you can prepare your heart, becomes a moment of terror and death. The crisis begins and ends in seconds.
In the explosive milieu of the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown on August 9, it intensifies the focus on how police use their guns.
For over thirty years, I have lived in perhaps the second most troubled neighborhood of Minneapolis. Gunshots are not uncommon. Sirens are so common as not to be noticed.City Vision estimates that it “is currently the most ethnically diverse single neighborhood in America with 100+ languages spoken there.” I love this place.
For decades, I have watched the police in this neighborhood exercise restraint and even tenderness. My overwhelming impression is that they are eager not to arrest, not to hurt, and not to demean, sometimes at significant risk to themselves. I’m sure there are exceptions. But that’s my experience watching not a few altercations.
Therefore, I do not have a personal disposition to be suspicious of policemen. I lean the other way because of my experience, and because of my biblical bent to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s.
But history, the Bible, and increasing evidences in our day, remind us of the danger endemic to human power. The more power a fallen human has, the more vulnerable he is to be corrupted by the power. This is true of pastors and police.
Yes, weakness and poverty have their own temptations (“A poor man who oppresses the poor is a beating rain that leaves no food,” Proverbs 28:3). But the temptations of the powerful and wealthy are even greater. That’s why Jesus characteristically called for mercy to the poor, and warned the rich (Luke [6:20], 24; Matthew [19:23]).
Being a law enforcement officer is a high calling. God ordains it. Fallen human society requires it. But the very word “enforcement” implies power and the legitimate use of force. Which means this high calling is especially vulnerable not only to criminal assault from the outside, but also to abuse from the inside.
* A note from the editor
I think it’s important to finish what John Piper closes with at the end of the article and I quoute, ” The point of this article is not that every time a police officer shoots a threatening person to protect himself or others, he is in the wrong. That’s not true. The point is: This video forces the issue front and center: Are we putting appropriate restraints on the possible misuses of power? And are we pursuing every means available for subduing threatening people without killing them?”~John Piper