I AM PALMER
I am Palmer is a series of articles written by parishioners at Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church about their experiences in the time of COVID-19. In this series, we are hearing from medical professionals, educators, students, public health experts, parents of school-age children and others who are finding ways to cope and thrive in our challenging times.
I am a Palmer parishioner and a lieutenant in the Houston Police Department. 2020 has been a year of reckoning for policing in America – Black Lives Matter; Hands Up, Don’t Shoot; Say His Name; I Can’t Breathe -- and my colleagues and I are in the middle of it.
George Floyd’s death surged a new wave in the police reform movement, and it also struck a chord of memory in me. In the year 2007 I was a young police officer in the third ward, and on October 8 a young man named Jesse Robins ran from me and other officers when we attempted to arrest him. He was just out of the county jail on a drug dealing charge and did not want to return. In a desperate attempt to stay out of jail he ate the cocaine he had in his pocket before we got him in handcuffs, and he ultimately died as a result.
He did not wake up that day intending to run from police officers and die, and I did not wake up thinking I would chase a man down and watch him die. His writhing face still haunts me.
The motto of the Houston Police Department is “Order through law, justice with mercy.” I think about the tension of order versus mercy every day. How do we as police officers serve the overall public interest in order, while preserving individual liberties with mercy? To me this is the great riddle of policing in a free society, and the answer is elusive.
Like my colleagues, I try imperfectly to serve the public interest. And I hope and pray that as a society we get closer to the ideal of justice with mercy.
“So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.”