KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A Knoxville Church honored members of law enforcement, Sunday, inviting Knoxville police officers to Sunday church service to thank them for all that they do to keep the community safe.
“To show our appreciation for law enforcement with all that is going on in our nation, to back them, to let them know we are behind them and we’re going to make a difference in our community,” Robert Barnett, Grace Baptist Church Pastor, said.
The gesture of gratitude comes at a difficult time for the law enforcement community nationwide, with tensions running high between police officers and the people they serve.
“Law enforcement officers are unfortunately being killed throughout this country,” David Rausch, Knoxville Police Chief, said.
Pastor Barnett preached to his church members, telling them to respect law enforcement and to not think less of them because of the acts of a few.
“We think it’s idiotic that good police are punished for bad police and we have good policemen here in Knoxville,” Barnett said.
Chief Rausch spoke before the crowd of church goers, saying the department constantly works to improve training and understand to prevent the kinds of officer-involved shootings happening around the country.
He also praised the Knoxville community for doing its part in cooperating with police.
“In order for a police officer to use force, someone has to resist them and we have not seen the level of resistance in this community and so that’s a good thing,” Rausch said. “Resistance has gone down, so the officers use of force has gone down and so that’s very positive.”
During Sunday’s church service, Chief Rausch took a moment to speak with children, teaching them at a young age that they can trust police.
“The real focus there is to let them see that we’re human. We’re just like their moms and dads, their grannies, their grandpas… that we’re no different than them and that we love them and we want them to be safe. And if they need our help, we’re the ones that they can count on. We’re the ones that they can come to,” Rausch said.
Pastor Barnett agrees that curbing crime is not just the responsibility of men and women in uniform. It requires the help of families and communities.
“In music and television, it teaches children to hate police so we have to teach them the right doctrine about love police officers are not out to hurt you but there to help you and protect you,” Barnett said. “They have to hear that constantly from their parents, in the school and in the church.”
Rausch said Knoxville has not had an officer-involved shooting death since July 2014.