God and the Winnipeg Police Force

by | November 10, 2014

onlygodcanjudgemeThis past Saturday evening (Nov 8), the Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba (HAAM) invited Police Chief Devon Clunis to speak with them. Chief Clunis gave a talk called, Creating a Culture of Safety and followed up with a Q&A session. It’s great that Clunis engaged HAAM and kudos to him for taking the time to speak to them! The reason HAAM was interested in speaking with Winnipeg’s police chief is he is unapologetically Christian in his beliefs and those beliefs have crossed over into his professional life. In 2012, Chief Clunis made national headlines when he spoke about prayer as part of policing:

I think if we have a community that’s consistently praying for one another, hopefully we’ll now see the physical reduction of crime and violence in our city.

Further, it came to HAAM’s attention that Christian Bibles were regularly given out to new recruits and that religious materials from other faiths were not offered. After one member of HAAM asked him how a new recruit might feel if they did not want to accept a Bible, while the majority of their class members did, according to The Winnipeg Free Press, Clunis responded:

That’s a good point…acknowledging the religious and ethnic diversity of the police service that provides diversity training to its officers.

However, while acknowledging the issue with handing out bibles, Clunis remained unapologetic about his prayer comments; according to The Winnipeg Free Press, Clunis rhetorically asked the group:

What would happen if we all just truly — I’m talking about all religious stripes here — started praying for the peace of this city and then actually started putting some action behind that?

I am surprised, in this day and age, that this still needs to be said, but Canada is a multi-cultural, secular society and religion should play no role in public service. Clunis needs to stifle his prayer talk when in the role of Police Chief and stop the insensitive practice of handing out bibles to new members of the police force.

However, Clunis has one other thing he must do immediately: change the materials the Winnipeg police force use to train their leaders because it is full of God references. The textbook is called, Developing the Leaders Around You: How to Help Others Reach Their Full Potential by John C Maxwell, an evangelical Christian and pastor with a Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. Maxwell founded several organizations including EQUIP, whose vision is:

To see effective Christian leaders fulfill the Great Commission in every nation. Our Mission To equip international Christian leaders to effectively serve the growing Body of Christ around the world. Our Process To provide strategic leadership training through conferences, resources, partnerships and technology. Our Invitation We invite you to invest your prayers, talents and financial resources with EQUIP to develop effective Christian leaders who will reach the nations for Christ.

The above EQUIP mission is a red flag, but if Maxwell wrote a leadership book without any religious references, I would have no issue with the materials. However, I searched inside the book (see citation at the end of this post) for the word, “God”, using Google Books and found ten references (note that not all the pages are available as previews in Google Books so it there may be more). I have read a lot of leadership books and I do not recall coming across the word “God” once in any of them so this strikes me as somewhat unusual. According to The Winnipeg Free Press, HAMM found the following God reference the most troubling:

One page…. said an “assessment of Future Leaders should include an evaluation of these qualities” listing things such as “self-discipline”, “a good track record,” “the ability to solve problems,” “the person is free from anger” and “is willing to make changes.” The quality the Manitoba Humanists found unsettling was No. 16 on the list — “The person is growing closer to God.” (DM: the  reference is on p.41)

A disclaimer at the end of the section regarding point 16 says “Please consider the fact that the author has a Christian background and in his personal view a relationship with God translates into a belief that any person truly growing closer to God must first follow Bible-based values (which would include the majority of the other points on the list). This does not mean to say that individuals who are “Not” growing closer to God are void of the necessary ingredients to serve as leaders within the WPS.”

I agree with HAMM, this is very problematic. Even with the disclaimer, it’s unpleasant to be subjected to unnecessary Christian God talk in the work place. I found a chart in the book troubling as well; it appears under a heading titled, “Equipping Potential Leaders” and is on p. 86 of the book; the chart is introduced on p. 85 as “….potential leader characteristics  adapted from author and leadership consultant Bobb Biehl….”

Chart mentioning leadership evaluation criteria with god references

As you can see in the last column someone who “talks with God” is considered as “far exceeds job requirements” in Communication and someone who “talks with the angels” is considered “exceeds job requirements” in Communication. Even if this is tongue in cheek, which I’m sure it is given the other qualities like “as fast as speeding bullets”, is it really inclusive to add the God stuff as examples of employees who go above and beyond? I’m sure there are lots of religiously neutral examples that could go under the “Communication” category instead.

The book even asserts that God’s authority is the ultimate authority and disses secularists for not getting it:

Spirituality: In secular circles, people rarely consider the power of spiritual-based authority . It comes from the people’s individual experiences with God and from His power working through them . It is the highest form of authority. (p. 100)

Somehow I just don’t think this jives with secular work police officers do; are they expected to yield to God’s authority over our laws? Moreover, will they, as Bob Russell, a retired police officer and a member of HAAM worries, be overlooked for leadership roles if they are not Christian?

Here are other places “God” appears in the Maxwell’s book: p. 51, p.52, p.119, p. 125, p. 146, p.184, p.199.

According to The Winnipeg Free Press, Clunis said a staff member brought him the training materials when there was no program for middle managers and that he adopted the materials because Maxwell is a “phenomenal leadership guru… not simply because he’s Christian.” I agree that it shouldn’t matter what Maxwell’s beliefs are if his leadership books are truly great, but it does matter when those beliefs seep into the materials, as they clearly do. What’s wrong with Stephen Covey‘s books? Covey was a Mormon yet his books appear God free and are considered the best leadership books out there. His family has continued his leadership training legacy so videos, books and training events are available for the choosing! It looks like the Chief either didn’t know the content of his training materials or didn’t care. Whatever the reason he needs to change them because they clash with the diversity training his officers receive.

Let’s hope HAAM keeps the pressure on Clunis to ensure Winnipeg police officers have a religiously neutral place to work and learn!

Works Cited

Maxwell, John C. Developing the Leaders Around You: How to Help Others Reach Their Full Potential. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995. Print.

8 thoughts on “God and the Winnipeg Police Force

  1. Eamon Knight

    I’m not sure I’d read too much into that chart: I recall seeing it posted on an office wall in a high-tech company *decades* ago. I think it falls under the heading of standard office humour, and if anything seems to detract from the religious messaging (though I note someone appears to have high-lighted the word “God” in yellow).

  2. Diana MacPherson

    @Eamon Knight – the highlight was me. I screen captured my Google Book word search inside the book.

  3. Pat morrow

    It’s a bear bones article in the Winnipeg free press it just scratched the surface of what we talked about. to Our police chiefs credit he disagrees with the Harper Gov on its getting tuff on crime crap. Clunis is a Chaplin himself and waffled on the question . Would you perform a marriage for gay officer.
    And we still don’t know why we have 5 chaplains on the force….all Christian

  4. calledtoquestion

    If he wants to base his own leadership styles using “God” as a tool then so be it, but there is no need for “God” to be used as a tool for the whole police force. It is far to disrespectful to put pressure on officers of other beliefs, or lack thereof, with a Christian belief. A good leader would take that into account, respect other beliefs, hold their own and work together with all. While I do not think that prayer is the necessary way to build a community, I do think that he is on to something as far as the need for building community within the police force, or any work force for that matter. Clunis could effectively do the same thing as “praying” by encouraging his police officers to think about each other and communicate with each other. Why the need to bring God into it? Why not just each other?

  5. Tim Underwood

    I spent a decade visiting inside our Federal Prison system and experienced the omnipresence of their feudalistic mindsets. FAITH IS HALF THE CURE or something of this nature hung in the waiting room of the Regional Psychiatric Center. It was on a raised letter metal casting paid for by us.

    The uneducated and religiously befuddled inmates playing cards with robed Christian Brothers were also paid for by us.

    The only way to convey the sense of evil permeating these religiously colonized places is to read Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ were he artfully invokes the sense of nausea accompanying Count’s close proximity.

    The evil, that significant numbers of our prison staff imagine they are battling, they believe emanates from the human hating minds of the demons depicted in their holy reference literature.

    Canada deserves better.

    Police and all related security personnel need the peace-of-mind that is only attainable through compassionate and rational thought processes.

    Imagine, if you will, a parole board made up of demon obsessed appointees. These people are oblivious to mental health issues. They have little regard for cognitive deficiencies. They highly value inmate statements where potential parolees espouse beliefs in the existence of entities that no one could ever confirm. They are in love with submission of any type.

    The police and security systems in Canada are vast, growing and invasive. So is our population. The need to support compassionate rationalism is more important than ever.

    Canada is slowly evolving into a modern socially responsible society. Immigrants into our society are inundated with a shrinking minority’s views that harken back to the days when western societies were hurled in to global conflicts by religious fervor and war-god symbolisms.

  6. Kat1958

    I wish more of our police officers would understand the strength that comes from praying for our city and for each other, I have old but consistent happy memories of many of Winnipeg’s police officers from when I served them where I worked. Laughter even when they had to deal with some of the most gruesome scenes. Love you all, pray it will help.

  7. Bob Russell

    Not sure if you’ve had an update on this issue but we have been advised by Chief Clunis that bibles will no longer be distributed to police recruits and that the Maxwell course has been dropped. I would like to add that despite our differences on religious faith, Chief Clunis is a very good man and a gentleman. Thanks for your support….now on to Chaplains in the Winnipeg Police and prayer at Winnipeg City Hall….


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