Community and Religious Leaders Join in
Honoring LA’s Peace Officers
Representing the full spectrum of Southland cultures, colors and creeds, they joined with city police to honor fallen officers with a pledge of tolerance and peace
It was two years to the day that the young son of the last slain LA police officer testified in the May 18, 2001 sentencing hearing of his father’s killer. Rare was the dry eye in the court room that day, as 10-year-old Dylon Brown calmly told jurors how he especially missed his dad, Brian, on Thanksgivings, Christmases and Easters since the officer took a bullet that ended his life three years prior in a Culver City shootout with 13 Inglewood gang members.
(Top) LAPD Chief William Bratton addresses clergy and guests from the spectrum of LA’s ethnic and religious communities gathered at the Church of Scientology’s Celebrity Centre International in Hollywood to honor LA peace officers. (bottom row, from left) The Very Reverend Ernesto Medina of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles gave the benediction; LA’s Council on American-Islamic Relations was represented by Sherrel Johnson, whose words of tribute came from the Holy Qur’an; Father John Bakas, St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral, performs “The Vacant Chair,” a song from civil war lore, to honor fallen LA officers.
It was for that officer, Brian Brown, and 194 other LAPD brethren who have given their lives in duty to this city, that the Interfaith Sunday of Prayer on May 18, 2003 was dedicated. Sponsored by the LAPD Religious Advisory Forum, the prayer ceremony at the Church of Scientology’s Celebrity Centre International’s Pavilion marked the beginning of the city-wide observance of National Police Week.
Following a processional, led by a lone bagpiper and the Police Department’s color guard, Rev. Heber C. Jentzsch, President of the Church of Scientology International, welcomed the capacity audience.
“We are brought together here in this unique city of more than 140 ethnic groups that are rooted in places and times that so many of us know so little about,” said Rev. Jentzsch.
“We’re here as an interfaith community to acknowledge the men and women of the LA Police Department. Despite the challenges that such disparity might represent, they are dedicated to bringing and maintaining the peace — a peace that is vital to every individual and every group in this city, no matter what religion or race.
“Gentlemen and ladies in blue,” Rev. Jentzsch said in closing, “you have our commitment to bring greater awareness and responsibility to those we minister to in our churches and on our streets. Thus we will partnership in the true sense of community.”
Religious leaders in attendance followed with readings from their religious texts and other acknowledgements of their communities’ appreciation for the work of LA’s peace officers.
Father John Bakas, monsignor of the St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral, sang of an 1861 soldier in the Union Army who had died in battle, and from this, offered his condolences to comrades and families of those officers who lost their lives in service to the city over the years.
Representing LA’s Muslim communities, Sherrel Johnson of the Council on American-Islamic Relations told the Chief and his fellow officers, “We want to thank Chief Bratton for his dedication to leadership and for providing the opportunity to partner within our community. We want to thank all the men and women from the LA Police Department for helping to make us feel safer, to make us feel part of this community.”
Quoting from the Holy Qur’an, she concluded with a message echoed by leaders of the represented faiths: “We pray that God guides and protects you as you put your lives on the line to protect us and our community. And we acknowledge that God is our ultimate protector.”
LAPD Officer Rosalind IIams opened with the Star-Spangled Banner (directly above on right) backed by the LA Interfaith Choir, and Rev. Heber C. Jentzsch, President of the Church of Scientology International welcomed leaders of Muslim, Catholic, Sikh, Buddhist, Jewish, Mormon, First African Methodist Episcopalian and Episcopal communities (top), followed by the invocation by LAPD Chaplain, Rev. Ferrol M. Robins (directly above on left), and traditional faith readings in tribute to LA’s men and women in blue.
Throughout the ceremony, the Celebrity Centre Choir was joined in song by officers of the LAPD and other religious representatives, providing rousing performances throughout the service, most notably “America the Beautiful” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” — so emotion-filled, they brought tears to the eyes of many, the Chief among them.
Chief Bratton then took the podium to respond with his Department’s commitment to keeping the peace and bringing to justice any individuals who create a climate of hate and of discrimination. [See “On Behalf of LA’s Peace Officers,” for an excerpt of Police Chief Bratton’s address.]
On behalf of his peace officers, the Chief thanked each of the faith communities represented for their “support for the men and women of this department who every day find that they may at some point in time have to give their lives to the idea that ‘America the Beautiful’ represents.”
Honoring those who serve and protect
“The members of our Los Angeles police force demonstrate their value through their service every, single day,” Rev. Jentzsch told Freedom. “Their mission — to protect and to serve — puts them face to face with evils and social ills that we, as men and women of the clergy, have our own duty to quell.”
Representing the Church of Latter Day Saints, Steve Gilliland said, “I believe that the vast majority of this cadre every day puts their bodies on the line for freedom and justice, and the right for other people to live up to their values — and are willing to protect those rights.”
And Narinjan Khalsa, who heads the Southern California Sikh Council, noted, “Service is no stranger to the LAPD. They were right there on our doorstep on September 12. Many times they are put in life-threatening situations.”
“Recognizing the LAPD officers’ side of the coin,” added Rev. Jentzsch, “we not only acknowledge their vital work, but rededicate our collective mission as a religious community to uphold our side in resolving today’s social ills.”