When I was assigned the detective position for the Belleair Police Department (BPD), I went to a regional burglary meeting. I met Largo Police Department Detective Brenden Arlington. You need to understand that police officers and detectives from different agencies sometimes aren’t the most open and friendly people, not till they get to know you. The first time, most don’t share a lot of their investigative information. They first want to check you out and make sure you were one of them. I have found this a common practice with agencies around the country.
This wasn’t Brendan’s way of operation. He immediately invited me into his inner circle and shared everything with me. Being that we were neighboring jurisdictions, he understood the importance of being on the same team. Every time I had something on the Largo, Belleair border, I would call Brendan. We worked so many cases together I felt like he was my partner. While sitting in his little work cubicle, I would talk with him about cases and suspects. I would look at the happy pictures he had on the walls of his family. I remember the day he got transferred out of burglary and went to Robbery/Homicide. Brendan appeared to be the guy that had it all.
But as in so many of these situations, we find out later that the ones that seem to have it most together are those that are battling the biggest demons. This appears to have been true in Brendan’s case. While reaching out to him about something we had going on in our church last month, I found out that he had committed suicide.
I was rocked to my core.
My family will tell you I don’t have a heart because I don’t cry at sappy movies. That night after finding out about Brendan’s death, I went into my closet and cried. I cried for his family and for his friends. Not that there would have been a different outcome if I had reached out to him sooner, but I cried because I had not talked to my friend one more time. Over the next couple of days, I got information from two of the detectives that were close to Brendan. Talking with them, I got the same “didn’t see it coming” conversation that I have heard from other friends and family members of suicide victims. The last time they saw him, he was upbeat and positive, only to later receive the shocking news that he had taken his life. Friends always feel like they might have done more, but unfortunately, most of those that had decided to take their own lives are on a mission until it is over, and that seems to be what happened to Brendan.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH), Police Officers rate number three out of ten in occupations with the highest suicide rate. They list all sorts of reasons, depression, stress, and unable to get adequate sleep. Add to that the type of people that officers constantly deal with every day. These are not the nice people in the world. They are the ones that live in a culture that most don’t want to understand, live in, or deal with. Let law enforcement do that. When you add all the reasons, then throw in divorce, and substance abuse, it feels like the world is against you. I really don’t understand why most law enforcement officers (LEO) would do this occupation. I can add one more thing to this equation, without Christ in their life, I don’t see how they can do this job at all.
I said this once before, but we as the church need to step up our game and really start to adopt LEO. The next time you see an LEO, you need to tell them how much you appreciate them and then invite them to your church. If you are brave enough, tell them you will pray for them and is there anything specific they would like you to pray for. I asked four police officers what I could pray for them, and three of them said, “that I make it home tonight.” Let that one sink in. Do you pray that every time you are leaving or going to work? They do, their wives do, and now we need to.
It is a dark world out there that most people will never see or have to deal with, yet LEOs deal with it every day. They are the thin blue line that protects you and your family from total chaos. The world we live in is not getting any better, and officers on the street need to know that we support them. The other day, I heard a person say that we need to remember they are one of God’s children when a person gets arrested. I responded to that person with, “are you saying the police are not God’s children?”
They are also God’s children, and they desperately need our prayers and our fellowship. We need to be that beacon of light for the officers and their families. We need to make sure that we support them and have their backs when walking through this world. If we don’t support them, who will? In the world of sinners and saints, we need to make sure our doors are open for both. As they say, “if you think you found the perfect church, don’t go in because it won’t be perfect anymore.”
I remember talking to Brendan about God. He said he was a believer, yet I never got too personal about his salvation. Maybe I should have. In those last moments, I pray that God wrapped His arms around Brendan while he was in his pain where he felt all alone, and there were no answers, and he decided to take his own life. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 NIV. I pray that God gave Brendan peace and called him home.
I pray that one day I get to talk to my friend again.
Jim has many years of law enforcement experience and has run the safety team at his church for several years. TSA was formed after he realized God's calling when multiple churches reached out and asked him to present at their church.