Rev. Angelo Frazier is familiar with public service in Bakersfield. He has worked as both a volunteer and a staff member at a variety of organizations, including as a former leader of The Mission at Kern County. He chose to pursue the chaplaincy with the Bakersfield Police Department in part to better advocate for individuals in need of other services.
“I wanted to get involved with those at risk and have a way to follow up with families,” said Frazier. He also saw the critical role law enforcement plays in every community and has now worked with local officers for nearly three decades.
Frazier offered his sincerest condolences to the family of George Floyd. He also recognized that community tensions have taken a toll on police officers.
“I see that the morale is really low at times,” said Frazier. “The police are charged with upholding the law and violence is a no-win situation. It’s difficult for them because they require the public trust and national consensus right now can be that the police are racist.”
Frazier has stood alongside officers during protests that have become unlawful riots. He has witnessed members of the public approach policemen in a taunting manner.
“I have seen tremendous restraint from local authorities here. I have been in the middle of these officers when someone throws a rock or gets right in their face and calls them a racist,” said Frazier. “These are human beings, too, not robots. If someone is attacking you, you want to protect yourself and won’t be listening.”
Frazier characterizes violence as ineffective and something that ends up hurting those carrying it out. Instead, he prefers to ask key questions during moments of conflict and invite others to express their sentiments through other channels.
“Do not participate in the group demagoguery of yelling and screaming. I just don’t think that helps further the conversation,” he concluded. “Peaceful protest is allowed under the Constitution. Looting and destruction of property doesn’t further the conversation.”
“These efforts have to be specific and patient and targeted. I will ask people gathered, ‘When was the last time you attended a city hall meeting?,’ ‘When was the last time you voted?’ said Frazier. “I encourage you to get involved in the process rather than paint brushing everything as racist. That is not going to further anything.”
As far as the notion that all police are racist, that has simply not been his experience.
“Not all police have great bedside manner. Not all doctors do and not all pastors do, either,” he admitted. “The issues with police are being dealt with and there will always be issues, but we are trying. Police officers lose their lives when going in to help. I’ve had people try to get me to say that the police in the George Floyd case are racist. How can I know that about an individual? What I saw was horrendous, but I can’t tell if he’s a racist from a 30-second video, and systems are in place to move forward with due process.”
Frazier has an unique vantage point to take stock of the current situation with a broader context. Now in his 60’s and as both a pastor serving the community and a chaplain working with police, he has considered racism from many angles.
“Maybe the bigger picture has little to do with George but more to do with righting the wrongs that have happened over 400-plus years,” said Frazier. “When we put every issue and bias and every bit of anger and racism into that act and make that indicative of everything, that, too, is a tragedy.”
He mentioned Martin Luther King and the issue of character: “In all of these discussions about racism, have you noticed you don’t hear about character? Character, I believe, is more indicative of a person than race.”
Frazier encourages civil dialogue, peaceful protest, and participation in civil processes.
“Instead of scaring each other about ‘the evil, racist police,’ find out what they’re going to ask from you if you get pulled over: your license, registration and proof of insurance,” said Frazier. “For the most part, if a police officer stops you, they are checking things out and they have a legitimate reason for doing that the vast majority of the time.”
He suggests being familiar with your rights and understanding how the court system works.
Frazier’s faith is also a source of comfort.
“As a pastor, we need to look to the one who gave his Son for us. No human institution will be perfectly managed,” he said. “Consider John 3:16, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son’ - not for the brown man or the white man or the black man or the green man if there are any green men. He died for you and for me. That’s what I hold deep in my heart. There are difficulties, but my hope isn’t in the government or even in the church. My hope is in Christ alone.”
He recognized the divisive nature of the situation but offered one solution true to his role as a pastor.
“I’m more on the Gospel side. I can hear good and bad on both sides,” he said. “Not all police are racist and participate in brutality. I stand on the truth of the Gospel as the only thing that can reconcile racism in our community.”
Frazier recommends the works of Dr. Shelby Steele for more information and followed up with one final statement: “When opinions are elevated above the Truth, chaos becomes its inevitable fruit.”