As police officers across the United States face low morale amid a wave of social unrest and calls for the defunding of police departments, a North Carolina church has taken it upon itself to express support and appreciation for its local police force.
Open Door Baptist Church in the town of Hickory, North Carolina held a special service earlier this month to honor the 19 members of the Long View Police Department.
Police Chief T.J. Bates spoke at the event, where officers were presented with $100 Visa gift cards and plaques of appreciation
In an interview with The Christian Post, Pastor Shawn Davis explained that the decision to hold the event was made after holding a meeting with Bates. During the meeting, Bates spoke of the low morale among the officers.
Davis hopes that his gestures of goodwill will provide the Long View Police Department with a much-needed morale boost.
“We prayed over them and asked for God’s blessing, safety, and protection,” he said. “We let them know we appreciated their service and courage.”
Davis maintained that “we can’t have a society and be civil” without the police.
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“If somebody’s breaking into my house, I call the police department,” the pastor explained. “We need the police department. One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch.”
Amid the ongoing debate about policing in the U.S., Davis contends that “the negative voices are the loudest.”
He said that he hopes that his church community, over 300 of whom attended the event, can be a “positive voice” for local law enforcement.
According to Davis, the congregation gave the officers a standing ovation during the service.
Davis said hopes that many other churches will follow suit and show support for their local law enforcement.
He told CP that Open Door Baptist Church plans to recognize the Long View Police Department on an annual basis.
In addition to Open Door Baptist Church, many other churches, businesses and individuals have shown police officers their appreciation.
Earlier this summer, Lighthouse Missionary Baptist Church in Jonesborough, Tennessee, donated $1,000 to each member of the local police department.
“We wanted to make a bold statement in support of law enforcement,” Lighthouse Pastor Perry Cleek told CP in July. “Our desire was for our action to send a symbolic message of our support to the Jonesborough Police, but to also show our support in a very practical way by recognizing and supporting each individual employee.”
About a month after the death of George Floyd in police custody incited national protests against police brutality, an African immigrant living in Washington, D.C. delivered food to police officers in her city in late June. She described the officers as “brave men and women who took the oath … to serve the community and they’re doing just that.”
Earlier in June, a restaurant in Port Richey, Florida, declared itself a “safe haven” for police.
That gesture came not long after a man in Alabama walked up to four police officers dining at a Cracker Barrel and offered to pay for their meal as a gesture of appreciation, refusing to take “no” for an answer.
Amid the anti-police rhetoric embraced by some politicians and activists, many police officers have left the force nationwide.
In the month following the death of George Floyd, 272 New York City police officers filed for retirement, a noticeable increase from the 183 New York City officers who filed for retirement during the same period in 2019.
In August, the San Francisco Chronicle reported an increase in the number of police force resignations in the first six months of the year.
In Colorado, over 200 police officers resigned in the weeks after Gov. Jared Police signed a police reform bill into law on June 19 that holds officers personally liable for their actions, according to The Denver Post.