Black and white

I am not known for my love of the police. This dates back to a now infamous encounter my senior year at North Park with two of Chicago’s finest WHOM I FLAGGED DOWN one night a few blocks from my apartment. I had left my apartment to catch a cab when a creepy man started propositioning me. The cops stopped and I ran over to their car but instead of getting information on the man or pursuing him, they proceeded to take me into custody for prostitution. (When I told them that I was a student at North Park their response was: “Yeah, we know a lot of girls like you who get through school this way.”) I have perhaps never been so utterly confounded by a situation that was at once so unbelievable and yet so horrifyingly real. After persuading them to take me back to my apartment so that my mom, who was visiting that weekend from Seattle, could vouch for my story, and after offering them a copy of the latest College News with a front page article about my Senior Par Excellance award, they agreed to let me go: “If we don’t catch you again this month your record will be clean,” they informed me.

This one clearly absurd situation would not have been enough to sour me. But the stories my kids from my ministry would tell me made my stomach sick: their stories of beatings, verbal assaults, and manipulation pushed me further, as did my own somewhat regular interactions when I would walk my kids back to their apartments after my drop-in center closed: “What are you doing here? You shouldn’t be walking out here. Go back where you belong.”

To this day, if I see a police car I have to fight the urge to cross the street or turn and go the other way.

Moving to L.A., a city notorious for their police force, did not improve my outlook. The first Senior Lead Officer we had stood a foot away from me and told me, point blank, that there had been no homicide on my street that week after I questioned him about the case. I had stood on our front porch just days earlier, it was our first Easter Sunday in L.A., and watched as the investigators worked the crime scene for the man shot and killed in his car a few houses down. But what did I know…

Last night we had our first block club with our new Senior Lead, and while there were disconcerting moments where his answers clashed with what we wanted to hear, I realized half-way through the meeting that this guy was being real with us. He is energetic, he loves his job, and he desires to impact our community for good. And it is his honesty (“I would love to live here if I didn’t have a wife and children”) that, while sometimes painful, is the thing I actually appreciate. Because while there are things I may not want to hear him say (what does that imply about us wives and mothers who DO live here?), his honesty is a step in the right direction.


  1. I have to partly agree with you here. I”ve seen this curroption as well. However, my uncle was a Newark (new jersey) cop for my whole life and it has to be one of the hardest jobs ever. The burn-out rate for inner cities must be high. They see nothing but the most horrible things on this earth day after day. I certainly would have a hard time keeping hope and trust in humanity.

  2. Thanks, Gabrielle. I totally agree wiht you about how difficult the job must be–the men and woman who choose to serve in this way (and the majority are certainly good, brave, and hard-working people who do heroic things for the sake of others) deserve our admiration and thanks. As with anything, the exceptions get all the press 🙂

  3. I really enjoy your blog and admire what you are doing. I live on the westside of Chicago and we hear lots of similar stories about run-ins with the police, especially among African American men. Stay encouraged. You are right where God’s heart is.

  4. That is a great story! I can’t imagine! I don’t have any nearly as interesting stories from my Christian college days!

    I’ve been reading you ever since Scot McKnight mentioned you on his blog. You’ve made me laugh – you’ve inspired me – and you’ve moved me to tears! Thanks.

  5. Wow! What a story! I enjoy reading your blog and I’m thrilled that you have a heart for inner-city ministry. It is so needed! I just moved to an apartment in East Dallas (a high crime area if there ever was one) and so these issue is heavy upon my mind.

  6. God be with you in East Dallas, Hannah! I checked out your site and saw that you have just started intensive Hebrew. You have your work cut out for you, but you will be greatly rewarded in the end. I will say a prayer for perseverence for you!


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