A Biblical Use of Force
by Officer Bill Rhetts
In front of my Police station is a Police Officer's memorial. It is a large iron statue of a Policeman. The Policeman is holding a small child. The name of the statue is "safe in his arms."
On the bottom of the statue, is the inscribed scriptures Romans 13:1-4. I often wonder how many Officers and citizens may not know the meaning and significance of that holy scripture.
Rom 13:1-4: Vs1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Vs 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. Vs 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. Vs 4 For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.
In verses 1-4, Scripture challenges us as believers to subject ourselves to what ever governments we live under. Submission to authority is never easy, especially for the non-Christian, or a resisting suspect. Human nature tends towards resistance and even rebellion, especially if government is imposed, incompetent, and/or corrupt. But as we struggle with how to respond to the systems in which we live, this passage offers some helpful perspectives:
In vs 1) God is the ultimate authority. God has established three institutions, a) Marriage, b) the church and c) government. In government, God raises up, and does away with leaders.
He is in control. Although as Christians we should still pray and vote for those leaders.
Vs 2) Both followers and Leaders are ultimately accountable to God.
Submission to human authority reflects our submission to God's authority.
Vs 3) God uses His government to carry out His purposes on earth.
Without question, some governments sometimes persecute those who do good. We see that even more in the 1990's.
Remember what God says in Isa 5:20 "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" The Apostle Paul had firsthand experienced that.
In Vs 3, ultimately it is the lawbreaker, not the law-abiding citizen, who has something to fear from the government or the Police Officer.
Vs 4) Obedience is a matter of inner conviction as well as external law. Yes when a fleeing suspect resists an arrest, or becomes a threat to us police Officers, we must execute that wrath. That wrath may be from "level 1" in our use of force contingency, or all the way to the top "death." I would hope and pray, that the wrath/force would be minimal, but in an uncontrolled environment, it is not easy to control the outcome.
The resisting suspect makes that decision for us. As a Christian Cop we are commanded to love our enemy, but we do have that authority to "take care of our threat."
Time and time again, suspects resist, and may have force used against them. If the suspect is wrong, then the Cop is right. The suspect is commanded to submit to the Police Officer by God's law as well as mans.
In closing, I want to emphasize that a Christian police officers goal and desire is; to only use the minimum amount of force necessary to effect the arrest, to overcome resistance, or to protect another's life.
(Bill Rhetts worked for the LAPD for 11 years, and was involved in 3 officer shootings resulting in one man being killed, and another to spend life in a wheel chair. After his final shooting in March 1997, he soon joined the ranks of the RPD, and quickly encountered trouble. He joked about the shooting of Tyisha Miller, saying that "In L.A. they treat you like a King(Rodney) and in Riverside it's Miller time," Later he said that the comment was taken out of context and was part of an educational lesson for newer officers. He started a Web site, called himself a born again Christian and expressed his favorite targets were race, gays and the role of police officers. In January 2000, he pursued and shot a man, who was a registered sex offender and he and two other officers cornered the unarmed man in a dog house where Rhetts shot him in the leg which later was amputated. Rhetts received an industrial retirement in May 2000, after he was declared mentally incompetent after being evaluated by three psychiatrists, including one whom he tried to convert to christianity.