An interview with South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Major Frank O’Neal
For most people, a day at work poses little or no threat of danger. Many of us work in classrooms, office buildings or other settings ideal for accomplishing our given tasks, but that’s not the case for men and women who work in law enforcement. Their jobs are intense and full of the unexpected.
“Most jobs don’t require people to walk into unknown situations with unknown dangers. Law enforcement officers walk toward danger every day.”
Before becoming a SLED agent more than 24 years ago, O’Neal spent time working for the FBI and in local law enforcement in the Midlands of South Carolina. Like many in his line of work, he chose the field to serve others.
O’Neal oversees SLED’s Narcotics, Alcohol and Vice Unit. He and the 75 agents he manages work daily to enforce laws that save lives. O’Neal also strives to prevent people from breaking laws. One of the things he enjoys most about his job is the opportunity to educate the public about how drugs and alcohol hurt children’s ability to learn.
“I wanted a job where I could help people and where I felt like I could make a difference. Once I entered law enforcement, I found out I loved it.”
As passionate as O’Neal is about making a difference in the lives of others, he is just as passionate about his relationship with Jesus Christ.
“Being a practicing Christian has been a game changer for me, When I have gone through periods of not reading my Bible and praying each day, my life gets very chaotic and out of sync. When I start my day with God, things just seem to work out. By reading the Bible, I constantly discover new things every day that are applicable to dealing with life. It has also softened my heart when dealing with people that are a product of their environment.”
Any situation O’Neal or his fellow officers face has the potential to be a matter of life or death. Men and women in uniform have to be brave, calm and able to make split-second decisions. O’Neal believes they also need encouragement and prayer.
“Believers can pray that all law enforcement officers return home each night to their family, and for officers to have wisdom and discernment when they encounter difficult and dangerous decisions, Believers can also pray for God to soften the hearts of those critical of law enforcement, and that those same people would try to put themselves in officers’ shoes before being critical and judgmental. Finally, pray for a greater understanding between the public and law enforcement, and a time of reconciliation.”
The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
– Matthew 25:40 NIV
Whether we patrol the streets from behind the wheel of a police car, set up appointments at a doctor’s office, conduct board meetings for a corporation or spend the day chasing little ones, as believers, we should all be praying for the people around us to be reconciled to Christ. There is no doubt that the change of heart He brings would also bring the kind of reconciliation O’Neal hopes to see. •LR•
Kelly Coakley, a former news anchor, is a proud preacher’s wife and mother. She loves interviewing people and telling stories about lives changed by the Gospel.