Harnessing Love’s Power
to Stop Oppression


A Call to Building Bridges

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Mar 20, 2014

“I love you, be safe.” These words are a reminder of how my Nana waved me off and how I bid my loved ones farewell for 22 years…. I left home each day anxious to do good in our world — to protect my assigned and adopted communities.

But my joy was tempered by the sad reality check that occurred three years ago when I attended an art show at the Brecht Forum in New York City. A skit was being performed and at the end of the skit a police officer was shot and killed. Most of the young adults in the room cheered and clapped. It was at this moment that I recognized how much I was hated and feared by the very community I vowed to protect and serve.

After 22 years of service as a law enforcement officer in New York City, I had been looking forward to retiring on New Year’s Eve. I reported to duty on Christmas Eve feeling light-hearted, knowing this would be my last Christmas Eve serving. I was praying for a quiet evening for myself and for my fellow officers.

However, I was quickly reminded of the sacrifices law enforcement officers make everyday, even on Christmas Eve. A bulletin from the FBI flashed across my computer screen informing me that an officer was shot and killed in Tupelo, Mississippi. Corporal Kevin Gale Stauffer of the Tupelo police department was fatally wounded while attempting to apprehend suspects in a bank robbery. Officer Joseph Maher, his partner, was critically wounded. The suspects were thus far unapprehended. I paused for a moment of silence to honor my fallen brother. Deeply saddened, my thoughts went to his family. I was not really sure if Santa was coming to his home or if the story of the birth of Jesus was going to be told, but I knew for sure that the holidays would forever be different for this family. In addition, I soon found out he had left a wife and two children ages 2 and 6, on Christmas Eve.

While this tragic story was unfolding, a parallel light was emerging in this dark hour. Imagine this! A civilian bystander, who had witnessed this senseless act of violence, approached the two shot officers who lay there on the pavement, and quickly took action. The bystander picked up the officer’s radio and called for help! Help quickly arrived. The mayor proclaimed that this one brave heroic act saved Officer Maher’s life.

There was a profound sense of gratitude that the community and I had for this unidentified bystander. There was also an emergence of love, kindness, and compassion for the officers’ families. I wondered how, as a faith community, we build and sustain this type of powerful oneness of community even in the face of fear, the sense of betrayal, and the possible prejudice of the very people who are here to protect and serve us.

I am hopeful that we can create change by communication and the demonstration of one’s humanity overcoming one’s hatred and fear.

Guided by my spirit and faith I am ready to open up this conversation. I invite my fellow Unitarian Universalists and all other faith communities to join me. I am not asking you to forgive or forget. I am asking you to be open to allow our faith to heal the wounds that exist. I am standing waiting to listen, to be honest, and to share my journey as a law enforcement officer. Let us build this bridge together with love, kindness, compassion, and honesty, so that we can be part of a forever-changing world by creating a united oneness.


In faith,







Joey Morelli

7 Responses to “A Call to Building Bridges”

  1. Mary Pat Burke says:

    Dear Joey,
    In reading this, I want you to know how very proud I am of you and what you have done for your communities. It takes a very special kind of person such as yourself to sacrifice so much in protecting your communities all day long while making sure everyone is safe. Basically, giving up your life to help protect and save others. It is a never ending job for you and your fellow officers.
    It is my honor to know you, Joey, and I too will see you on the bridge!


    Mary Pat Burke

  2. Abigail says:

    My sister in Arms, It touched my heart to read your article. As part of the Law Enforcement family I know it is very important to have that Bridge between Law Enforcement and the community. This Bridge you talk about must come from both sides. My Late Husband & I “both Law Enforcement Officers” raised 3 children, one spring evening my oldest son (18 yrs old at the time) came home and told us that he was stopped, patted & frisked by 3 plain clothes officers who drove up on the sidewalk and blocked his pathway while he was on his way to the subway. He was asked where does he live and asked for I.D. after identifying himself he was told “O.K.”, given his I.D. back and sent on his way. After hearing this we apologized to him asked him how did it make him feel. His reply was, “I felt they were doing there jobs”. I felt a rush of mixed emotions! Saddened, angry, disgusted, proud, protective relieved and yet could not say much to him. Saddened because a brother in arms violated another young black man’s rights, angry because it was my son, disgusted because had he stood up for his rights by just saying to them “You are violating my rights” the outcome could have been worst, proud because he believes in what his parents stands for, protective because the messed with my cub and relief because he was home safe and sound! WE NEED THIS BRIDGE THAT YOU SPEAK OFF! Who is going to initiate it after this conversation that we are having now? As a Law Enforcement Officer I have always treated everyone with Respect & Dignity because I believe the rest is up to the God & the Judicial System, this didn’t mean it was reciprocated. Just as well here was my young Black son doing what he was supposed to do and he was approached without provocation in such an aggressive manner but yet stayed so calm and respectful through it all. Your Nana took the time to say those magical word to you “Love & Safe” in this society today the busyness of survival takes us to a place of forgetfulness and a sort of neglect for our loved ones sending them into the world without even uttering such a thing as “I love you or Be Safe” not even a sprinkle of softness or warmth in the heart when we or they step out. ” Because, we are too busy” Charity begins at home… for all of us, to all of us… “I love you & Be Safe!”

  3. Carol Kivler says:

    I for one know the “blood sweat and tears” that Joey has shed over the last 22 years. No matter what was handed to her, Joey responded with the professionalism of a community leader. Holiday after holiday when most of us were celebrating with family and friends, Joey was in the trenching doing what was asked of her. If ever there is a time where faith communities come together to build bridges with law enforcement, it is now. Joey’s quest to open up this conversation to bring both communities in oneness would not only benefit these communities but better the world. I commend Joey for her honesty, integrity, and dedication to her profession, faith community, and mankind.
    I am so proud of my friend of over 30 years. I love you, Joey!

  4. Janice Marie Johnson says:

    It’s good to read this post on the positive side of law enforcement. I’m committed to being a bridge-builder, challenging myself to put my own faith in action in a compelling new way. Truth be told, I’ll be doing so with trepidation. Thus far, I have not had a good relationship with law enforcement.

    What will I do? For starters, I plan to attend the National Peace Officers’ Memorial Day Service on Thursday, May 15 at the National Mall. It is an annual event held in honor of federal, state and local officers — killed or disabled in the line of duty. I know that I will be humbled as I hear story after story of the generosity of spirit of these men and women. I know that I will be inspired by the remarks of President Obama. And I know that I will be humbled by the sight of so many officers from all aspects of law enforcement — national and international.

    In addition, I will find avenues for building bridges to right relationship with law enforcement. Perhaps, a community affairs officer can visit my church and speak with our family ministries community. Perhaps, adults can hold a forum with law enforcement officers so we can explore new ways to begin to understand each other. Perhaps we can create new stories dismantling some negatives that life — and the media — relentlessly continue to teach us. Although it won’t be easy, I am committed to taking this opportunity to stretch further into living my faith.

    Masakhane, Janice

    Janice Marie Johnson

  5. Sandra Lumpkin says:


    Your blog post reflects your compassion, integrity, love, and professional dedication. Those of us who are civilians (not part of the police community) are indebted to officers such as your self. Thank you for your words of healing and years of duty.

    WIth love,


  6. Cherie says:

    Hello Joey,

    I am an African-American female that resides in one of the local communities that need and appreciate law enforcement protection. Whenever, I see a patrol officer in my neighborhood, I take the time to say thank you. I thank them for doing their job yes, but I also thank them for standing in the cold, for standing in the rain and standing in the heat. While a small number of officers abuse their power, the majority does not. So thank you for standing on the corner where you are exposed to distrust, hate, disdain, and abuse. And thank you for your 22-years of dedicated service.

    See you on the bridge.

  7. Hope Johnson says:

    This is an interesting blog in that it invites Unitarian Universalists to enter into conversation and relationship with law enforcement. Joey, how can people connect with you if they wish to be engaged in this conversation?

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