Reflective prayer on the part of police chief magnifies nation's acceptance of practice in tragedy

(Facebook/Wes Blair)

Cape Girardeau/Dallas (Christian Examiner) — Wes Blair had planned a quiet sunrise walk on the beach July 8. Instead, shootings in Dallas the night before prompted the vacationing chief of police of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to reflect on events in his former hometown.

(Wes Blair)

Blair and his wife learned of the tragedy about 3 a.m . via Facebook. At dawn, Wes headed to the beach solo.

"I think that was God's design. If [my wife] had been with me, we'd have had a conversation."

Nor would Blair have had his cell phone, which he carried to take a photo of the sunrise. He experienced a "great moment" with God which he felt compelled to share to encourage his staff.

Blair turned to social media with a post conveying expressions of broken-heartedness, anger, fear for fellow policemen and a sense of powerlessness against evil, continuing as follows:

As I watched the waves ... crash against the shore and waited for the sun to rise, God reminded me that He is still in control. Many days it does not seem like it, but He is and His reign is forever.

There is nothing man can do to stop the sunrise every morning. We are too feeble to calm the waves. We cannot stop a single cloud from floating across the sky. These things are totally beyond our control and squarely in God's hands.

Through the beautiful sunrise, God reminded me that I belong to Him. Man may be evil and this world is full of strife, hatred, and horrific we will never understand. He never promised us bliss on earth...quite the opposite. However, He has promised us an eternal life with Him and all [H]is glory when our numbered days on this planet come to an end. All we have to do is choose to accept it.

I do. Do you?

Within a short time, Blair's post had hundreds of likes and shares.

While Blair's use of social media may have surprised some (he says his wife is the "Facebook junkie"), his statement of faith did not. Policing is what he believes God called him to do.

Blair said he finds support for expressions of faith in Cape Girardeau, a conservative community with city officials who are Christians.

While officials in other police departments with which he has been affiliated cautioned against mentioning God in speech or emails, Blair said he has never encountered serious resistance to his faith.

During his first year as chief of police in Cape Girardeau, he even led a department meeting which featured voluntary prayer in the police station for the family of a recently deceased assistant chief.

Blair also noted the "big push" in Missouri to place the phrase, "In God We Trust" on the backs of law enforcement vehicles. "Our sheriff was one of the first to do it," Blair said, calling the lack of criticism "refreshing."

Blair's department boasts a half dozen volunteer chaplains who "never hide that they are ministers."

Still, Blair admitted he had been "a little bit surprised" as police have participated in community prayer walks across the nation without encountering criticism.

Many in blue acknowledge God.

Louisiana State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson called for prayer during the press conference following the Baton Rouge shootings: "We want and need your prayers....we appreciate every single one of them."

In Dallas, Police Chief David Brown sees his job as a "divine assignment," Brown's pastor Tony Evans of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship told Dallas Morning News reporter Naomi Martin for an article published July 9. Martin records Evans as explaining that "Brown sees himself as a representative of good fighting evil."

Blair has known Brown since the Dallas chief's earliest days in office, when Brown's own son killed both a local resident and a Lancaster police officer responding to the shooting. Ultimately, David Brown, Jr., died as well when he failed to cooperate with the police. 

Blair was not surprised by Brown's leadership after the 2016 shootings. "The way he's handled this situation is beyond impressive."

Police appreciate the recent groundswell of support, Blair added, saying he had gained "20 pounds" from all the sweets brought by citizens. Yet they would like to see sustained community backing to facilitate what President Obama called in the July 12 interfaith memorial service in Dallas "the hard and daily labor" of maintaining the "rule of law."

"I know 98% of our population loves us and wants to interact with us. We are not going to let two percent put us into a bunker mentality," mused Blair, admitting that his department had tightened procedures. Officers must now have back up on most calls and participation in community sports under streetlights has been curtailed.

While the support is nice, real change remains slow, Blair said. "After you've had your pie, you go back into the neighborhood where they hate you."

In an interview following a July 11 community meeting, Grand Prairie Police Chief Steve Dye referenced Mayor Ron Jensen's call for "prayer with legs" by urging, "Get involved with your local police department...be an advocate for us."

Dye recommended acknowledgment of the humanity of policemen: "We want you to see us as Steve who's the father, the husband, the guy who goes to church every week."

Blair sees the faith of the "guy who goes to church" as integral to policing. "I honestly do not know how someone can do law enforcement and not be a Christian. There are guys who do and some...are really good officers. But I don't see how you could do it and not have faith in God, and know that there is something bigger and better."

As for good and evil, Blair added, "At the end of the day I know here on earth we aren't going to win. God promised us there is going to be strife. The reward is when He comes back or if we die and we go to heaven."

"Society has always been evil," Blair said, referencing New Testament accounts. "God didn't say hide from it. He said go out and try to make it a better place. I couldn't do this job if I didn't have that Christian perspective."

God told Blair to help people and this motivates him. "That's what I hold onto—the somebodies I have made it a better place for."