Restoration and forgiveness. a soldiers perspective

Posted: March 22, 2011 in Army, Forgiveness
I was given an assignment from my profesor to write a 5-7 page paper about an officer who was caught doing something wrong.  The officer was caught watching pornography and denied it.  Then it was found that he did do it.  He said he was sorry and that it would not happen again.  He has 15 years on the force and only one traffic incident in his jacket.  A clean officer who made a mistake.  What do you do?  That was my assignment, to decide what to do.  I wanted to share it with you.  God bless.
The Problem

I think it is important to look at this situation from a Christian’s perspective.  God does not shun us for a mistake, so we should not either.  Yes it was a stupid mistake.  He logged in with his own password, lied about it, and then he confessed after the investigation he could have halted with an up-front confession was over.  The fact is that he has to be punished in some form, but I think firing him is a bit premature.  One might say a week without pay would do.  Anything more than that is overreaching.  If we look back into the Bible we will see that God does not throw His leaders or His people to the side when they make a mistake.  I will provide several biblical examples of God’s grace toward His people.

David Caught in Adultery

2 Samuel 11:2-12:9 (2008) says,

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful…So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her…. then she sent a letter saying, “I am pregnant.” … In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.”…  Nathan said to David…”Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. (p.560)

King David committed adultery and then had the woman’s husband killed after the king found out she was pregnant.  The King tried to cover up his tracks with a murder, and yet God did not take his place of leadership away.  Instead, God made it harder for David to reign and took David’s son (English Standard Version, 2 Sam.12.10-13).  The officer who lied will have a harder time on the job.  He will always be looked at as the one who lied to Internal Affairs.  If a high priority case comes up, his former actions will be drug out into the light for all to see.  But, that is what happened to David also.  God said that he would punish David publically in front of everyone (2 Sam.12.12).  The officer in question obviously did not do anything nearly as bad as King David did, so why should we fire him?  We should not fire him.  The officer has fifteen years of good service and only one traffic accident on his record.  If anyone deserves a second chance, it is someone with a good past performance record.  David did great things in the past, so his sin did not take away his life or his job.

Peter Denies Christ Three Times

Mark 14:66-72 (2008) says,

And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus. But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. (p.1930)

Peter did not just deny that he knew Jesus; he denied Jesus three times and cursed about the matter.  The officer also denied that he did anything wrong.  He said he was not looking at pornography and claimed to have no knowledge of the incident.  When the officer was caught, he was very sorry indeed.  When Peter was caught, he wept (Mark.14.72).  I know that this man did not deny Jesus, but I am simply showing a biblical example of denial.  What happened to Peter?  He became, as some say, the first pope.  I do not really buy into that, but I do know that Jesus said Peter was the rock that He would lay the very foundation of Christianity on, and that Satan would not prevail against it (Matt.16.18).  Jesus also restored Peter three times after His resurrection (John.21.15-19).  We should restore those who have fallen and not condemn them.  He may be a liability, but Jesus restored.  We should restore also.  That officer could go on to help the force for a long time.  Look at what Peter did after his mistake.  Peter proclaimed the coming of the Holy Spirit and healed a beggar shortly after his mistake (Acts.2.14-36, Acts.3.1-10). Henri Nouwen (1972) wrote, “the great illusion is to think that man can be lead out of the desert by someone who has never been there” (p.72).  Peter had been the one who was restored so he could restore others also.  This officer could do some rookies a great dead by warning them about the dangers of lying and watching pornography.  He could be a great testimony through his mistake like Peter was.  He deserves another shot.

A non-Christian Perspective

Looking at this from a non-Christian perspective, the officer could and probably would be terminated.  I knew a woman who worked for a mortgage company that had very aggressive, competitive sales goals.  After her five-year anniversary with the company she had an incident in her personal life and missed her sales goal two months in a row.  The company fired her for not making her sales goals, even though those were the only two months she had not made her goal the whole time she was employed.  The way that the world works is it uses you when it can, and spits you out when it is done.  Like the former mayor of New York said, “you can even be a crook, but when you make a deal you keep it” (Giuliani & Kurson, 2002).  The officer in hand is no longer a man of his word, so he has to go.  This of course is a non-Christian look at the world, not my personal view.  I have seen people fired for smaller offenses.  The world is a terrible place to make a mistake right now.  Many are trying to get into the field of criminal justice, and new recruits are not exactly in shortcomings.  When I looked into becoming a Detroit police officer they had a one-year waiting list.  That is during a recession in one of the worst economies.  Simply put, cops are in high demand; you cannot afford to make a mistake if you want to keep food on the table.

United States. v. Agurs

The defense did not win its motion for a new trial in the first place (United States v. Agurs, 1976).  Even though the prosecutor now has to present information pertinent to the case at hand of material witnesses and influential players that does not necessarily mean that the case will be lost.  Sure it will be hard to hear about the fact that this man watched pornography on company computers, but that does not mean that any cases will be lost.  I think it is worth keeping an officer who has had a clean record up until this point.  Also, one has to remember that in most cases, officers are not part of a high profile case that would involve looking into background information in the first place.  The officer would have to first be involved in a high priority case to even become a liability.  Second, the offender would have to have money.  It should come as no surprise that most of the people who commit violent crimes cannot afford their own lawyer (Hanks, 2000).  If the case were not a high profile murder case, then the attorney for the defense would probably not even dig it out in the first place.  Some defense attorneys in capital cases do not even meet their client until the day of the trial (Hugo, 1998).  Does that seem like enough time to dig into the officer’s background?  No it does not.  If you are not rich, you do not get a great defense in many cases.  The defendant would have to have a bankroll to hire other lawyers and investigators to dig up past performances.  The point is that there would have to be allot of circumstances lined up for the officer to become a liability in the first place.  So many circumstances that the risk of keeping an otherwise great officer outweighs any argument of firing him.

Kyles v. Whitley

This case only proves my point about the Agurs case.  In Kyles the prosecution won a new trial based on the Brady rule saying that the prosecution held back information that would have been profitable to the defense (Kyles v. Whitley, 1995).  My point about Agurs was that if the prosecution had revealed the information the results of the case would most likely be the same. It was the same in the Kyles case.  Even though Kyles won a new trial, it lost that trial as well (Kyles v. Agurs, 1995).  I think that Agurs would have had the same outcome even if the negative information were presented before hand.

Review

Looking at this particular case I would say that the best thing to do is to keep the officer on the force.  The only reason why one might have grounds for termination is that the officer lied about the pornography situation.  Of course, it will be hard to trust the officer for a while, and he may end up pulling some unwanted desk duty, but he will gain the trust of the people again.  If we take a biblical approach to the situation, we have no choice but to restore him.  Jesus said that if someone were to offend you seventy-seven times that we should still forgive (Matt.18.22).  I am loosely tying that scripture to the present situation.  That scripture does not necessarily apply to a job.  I think if you messed up seventy-seven times you should be fired.  What I mean is that one time is not enough for termination.  Yes the mistake was bad, and the lie was even worse, but he could still do allot of good things serving the police force.  The risk of keeping him will probably reward the police with a good officer for at least five more years.  They could be very stern with him and suspend him without pay for a while.  Then when he came back they could have him ride a desk for a year or so.  But, he should be allowed a chance to redeem himself, because Jesus is a God of second chances. Look at the parable of the prodigal son:

Luke 15:11-24 (2008) reads,

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to celebrate. (p.1989)

The officer made a mistake and said he was wrong.  He said it would not happen again, and maybe it will not, but we should give him the chance to show us.  Jesus gives us a parable of someone who had it all, lost it all, and then came back for forgiveness (Luke.15.18).  The man forgave his son and restored him with a feast, a nice robe and a gold ring (Luke.15.22).  The son was fully restored even after his folly.  That is how God deals with us.  It does not matter how far gone we were, we can be brought back with the blood of Jesus.  Jesus restores; we should to.

References

Giuliani, R. W., & Kurson, K. (2002). Leadership . New York: Hyperion.

Hanks, G. C. (2000). Against the Death Penalty: Christian and Secular Arguments Against Capital Punishment. Scottdale: Herald Press (pa).

Hugo, A. (1998). The Death Penalty in America: Current Controversies (Oxford Paperbacks). New York: Oxford University Press, USA. (Original work published 2002)

Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U. S. 419 (1995)

Nouwen, H. J. (1972). The wounded healer: ministry in contemporary society ([1st ed.).

Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.

United States v. Agurs, 427 U. S. 97 (1976)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s