It happened again.
We lost another officer in the line of duty to a senseless act of cowardly violence, this time just up the road from our home in Gainesville. On Sunday, July 7, Hall County Deputy Sheriff Nicolas Blane Dixon was fulfilling his duty, responding to a report of a stolen vehicle. He and several officers were in pursuit of a group of teenagers suspected of other incidents of auto theft.
During the pursuit of four suspects, the teenagers opened fire on a number of officers. Dixon was shot and didn’t recover from his injuries; he was pronounced dead at Northeast Georgia Medical Center on Monday.
Dixon is now the fourth officer killed in the line of duty in Georgia in 2019. And it’s a miracle the other officers didn’t experience the same fate as their colleague.
A family was shattered this week. Dixon leaves behind his wife, a 9-year-old son, and a 3-month-old son — absolutely heartbreaking. We will be hosting the funeral at Free Chapel on Thursday, and I encourage everyone to pray for Dixon’s family and consider making a donation to help them as they carry on without their husband and father.
The tragedy that unfolded here in Gainesville this week is sadly not unusual in America today. The number of officers shot and killed on the job continues to rise. In fact, in 2018, more law enforcement were killed by gunfire than in traffic incidents.
I’m worried these increasing acts of violence against law enforcement stem from a lack of respect for authority and the normalization of violence in general in our culture.
We just witnessed this on the streets of Portland, Oregon, last week where several police officers and other innocent bystanders were assaulted by Antifa protesters. Officers were punched, pepper-sprayed and hit with various objects. It was utter lawlessness.
I keep hearing endless stories of officers being spit on, yelled at and attacked while simply attempting to enforce our nation’s laws. A trend is also emerging in America where law enforcement officials are disrespected in public places, often cursed at and forced to leave establishments. Just this week, officers who were paying customers were abruptly asked to leave a Starbucks in Arizona.
This can’t go on. Each of these incidents mentioned above should not be normalized. Any story of an officer who’s assaulted, shot or simply disrespected should break our hearts. They work diligently at every hour of the day keeping peace and order in our neighborhoods, protecting us from harm and responding when we’re desperate for help. In a just society, we must have officers of the law given the authority they need to enforce the law. Our way of life can’t continue without this essential element.
Most of the crimes referenced above were committed by young people, which leads me to believe a younger generation is missing some important lessons.
In our country, we indeed have a precious and fundamental right to protest, to speak our mind and to disagree with one another. Yet this isn’t a license to disrespect authority and act out in violence. The whole purpose of our freedom of speech is so that we don’t engage in inhumane brutality with one another as our way of being heard.
Police officers have a duty as well to ensure their behavior is in accordance with the law and that everyone is treated fairly. We’ve certainly observed circumstances where officers have overstepped their authority and acted unjustly. But thankfully we are governed by law and not by man and situations of injustice have been confronted.
Officers should be held to the same standard, without a rush to judgement, and afforded the same due process as any other accused individual. The fact is, the vast majority of law enforcement are fine people who undertake their responsibility with a genuine desire to serve and protect their communities.
I’m not sure when we started down this slippery slope of hatred and violence, or who is to blame. But I know this: It's up to each of us to teach our children the way forward. We need to teach them the value of authority and accountability, how essential these concepts are to ensure we live in a just and civil society. We need to teach them to respect and honor those in authority and to refrain from engaging in violence against officers of the law. Failing to understand these fundamental truths will result in anarchy, plain and simple.
Teaching these important lessons will go a long way and will certainly save many innocent lives. We can’t simply watch tragic incidents unfold and hope hearts and minds will change. We owe it to Dixon, his widowed wife, his sons and his brave colleagues to speak up and get this right. We have to do our part to ensure the dignity and respect of police officers, and anyone in a position of power, is a hallmark of our culture.
Jentezen Franklin is senior pastor of Free Chapel, a multi-campus church, and author of nine books.