Can Police officers be good Christians or Muslims?

To be a policeman is a calling from God.  A police man or woman is a person called by God to work in God’s world and enforce order and observance of law so that the world can be a true reflection of the Kingdom of God on earth.  Imagine a world without law enforcers!   There would be theft, murders, disorder and all kinds of confusions.  To show the nobility of this profession, the bible is full of good security officers among them are David and Saul.

 However even though police officers are called by God but several parts of the world seem to experience the harshness of the police.  Here in Malawi, the MCP regime was full of police brutality.  Recently, on July 20, 20 lives were lost as the police used live bullets to stop the demonstrations.  The pictures of people killed on July 20 are a horrible sight to see.  When one looks at these horrible pictures of people killed by police officers; one is compelled to ask; can a police officer be a good Christian/Moslem? 

Armed Police

One police officer even asked me, ‘prophet what can I do as a police officer to be a good Christian especially when my work demands that I have to beat up people?  An old woman at Nantipwiri, even made the question clearer when she asked; ‘koma a polisi ndi m’mene akumenyela anthu, kodi amapemphera m’chowona?   (With all these beatings, do the police officers really pray in truth?)

 From the beginning, we wish to state that, it is not a sin to become a police officer.  Many police officers are in fact very good people but the problem rises when they meet dilemmas in their work.  Should a police officer beat up thieves?  Should he use tear-gas? When is it right to shoot? Or is it sinful for a police officer to use torturing methods to get information from a criminal who has killed so many people and is hiding information? If the officer does not use torturing, then how does he get information from this dangerous criminal who killed so many people? These are difficult questions that a police officer faces daily in the exercise of his work and unfortunately every day a police officer has to make quick decisions in such difficult and often unclear situations. 

 Should a prayerful police officer beat up somebody?

A police officer sins in beating up people except when he or she does it for a just and sufficient reason.  For example, if a police officer finds himself in a situation where the only way of bringing about order and peace is to use force then he is right in doing so.  However, using too much force is sinful.  The amount of force that a police officer must use in a given situation should be proportionate to the danger involved.  For example, there is no need for a police officer to beat up somebody who is already arrested because he is under control.  Beating up such a person is sinful. 

 Should a good and prayerful police officer shoot and kill a person?

Life of a human being is sacred and holy.  It is only God who has the power to give and take life.  Murdering is a serious sin. However with regard to a police officer, there are situations when they come face to face with an unjust aggressor (dangerous criminal or dangerous robber) who is heavily armed and refuses to surrender and in so doing the unjust aggressor becomes a risk to the police officer and to the citizens as well who can be shot dead by this criminal who refuses to surrender despite being heavily armed with weapons. In this case, the police officer will try to weaken the criminal by shooting for example legs. 

But if unintentionally, the police officer kills this dangerous criminal then there is no sin involved because the officer has killed the criminal unintentionally and to save the lives of the people in the society.  In this particular case, the police officer may be right in using arms in shooting the criminal.  Shooting the criminal here is an evil that is just tolerated in order to save the lives of many people whose lives may be endangered by this dangerous criminal who refuses to surrender.  However if the criminal surrenders, he or she should not be shot dead as doing so is to commit the sin of murder.   In addition, if the police officer judges that the dangerous criminal will shoot him/her first then the officer is right by shooting the dangerous criminal in self defense.  Morally speaking there will not be any sin involved because it is done for self defense. 

 Analysis of July 20 shooting of demonstrators

Using the above principle we can analyze if it was right to shoot people during the July 20 demonstrations.  The question to ask is; were those people who were killed armed with dangerous weapons as to cause a risk to police officers and to the public?  Did they refuse to surrender to the police or did they hold dangerous weapons?  If those people who were shot dead were not armed with dangerous weapons like guns, then the force or method that the police used (shooting and killing) was not proportionate to the crime of property damage that would have been caused by those people.  The question now to ask is, do you punish a property destroyer by shooting him/her to death?  With this reasoning it is clear to see that from a moral point of view it was sinful to kill hence the police officers who shot and those who ordered the killing committed the sin of murder. 

 Orders from above Versus the Will of God?

A good police officer must obey the Barracks Commander in doing what is right ONLY.  If the order from above contradicts the Will of God, then the police officer should be ready to disobey the orders from above and even be ready to lose the job in order to obey the Will of God.  ‘It is better to fear God than man.’ Acts 5: 27   Practically this means that when the Commander tells a police officer to shoot and kill.  The officer must first judge if there are enough reasons to shoot and kill.  If the reasons are not sufficient then the police officer should not shoot and be ready to obey God rather than man.  It is better to lose one’s job because of following the will of God than to kill an innocent human being.  For in the book of Genesis we read that the blood of an innocently killed person daily cries for vengeance before the thrown of God.  (But the LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!  Genesis 4:10)

 Conclusively then, police officers are called by God to bring order, peace and tranquility so that the earth becomes a reflection of the Kingdom of God.  They are good people who have sacrificed their lives to work in a risky profession where one can easily die but they have given up their lives in the service of the nation. But in doing this noble task, police officers may do well to read Luke 3:14; And the soldiers came to him and asked him; and what shall we do to be saved as well? And he said to them, Do not do violence to your fellow people and neither accuse anyone falsely. 

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