By Sherye S. Green
Luke Thompson has tried many times to leave law enforcement, but God has never allowed other doors to open. The assurance that he’s “in the right place” provides Byram’s Chief of Police a sense of calm on days when it seems as if the world’s gone mad. Throughout his sixteen-year career in law enforcement, God has confirmed time and again that Luke has indeed found his calling.
As the dawn of a new millennium was breaking in 2000, Luke found himself less than excited about his future. “I was broke, laid off, and living in my hometown of Byram, Mississippi. I had lost my job as marketing manager for a wireless communications company that sold pagers. Having just gone through a divorce, I was working hard to get back on my feet.” Friends at the Hinds County sheriff’s department encouraged him to fill out an application. Soon afterwards, he was hired.
“I had a wonderful boss, who told me if I’d work eighteen months as an Emergency Dispatcher, she’d help me go anywhere I wanted to go in terms of the department.” After serving two years in that capacity, Luke applied for another position and was promoted to Patrol Officer.
Even though he found working with the Hinds County agency rewarding, Luke decided to send an application to the Gulfport Police Department. The seaside city held fond memories for him. “I remember as a kid spending a week there every summer when my dad was in the Air National Guard. It was the only place I ever really wanted to go.” Six months later, Luke’s application was accepted, and in September 2004, he moved to the Gulf Coast.
The years in Gulfport brought stability and purpose to Luke’s life. He thrived in the work and gained valuable experience. He also found love again. Luke met Christy, a fellow Gulfport Police Department employee who worked in dispatch. Hurricane Katrina occurred shortly after they began dating. After surviving the Category 5 storm, they knew they would be able to withstand any gale force winds life might blow their way. The two were married in 2008.
In early 2009, Luke learned that his hometown, now newly incorporated, was creating its governmental infrastructure. He applied for the chief of police position. During the interview, Luke acted upon a suggestion from a trusted colleague and presented a complete business plan for Byram’s future police department, including his original designs for the patch and patrol cars. His forward-thinking vision earned him the job.
Throughout his career, Luke’s faith has sustained him when encountering the worst in humanity. “In this job, I see so much brokenness. It helps me identify with Christ’s suffering.” Baptized as a child, he thought he was saved. However, the untimely death in January 1994 of a close friend and fellow officer, killed in a motorcycle accident, brought Luke face-to-face with the doubt that he might not possess a saving faith.
“I realized that if it were me that had just died, I would bust the doors of hell wide open. While reading the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew’s Gospel, I heard the Holy Spirit speak loudly to my heart in the verse, ‘I don’t know you’ (Matthew 25:12). I reached out to my preacher and was saved.”
The Byram Police Department has 42 employees—32 sworn officers and ten civilian support staff. Praying daily for each staff member enables Luke to temper his greatest concern, “losing an officer in the line of duty. My main goal is getting to go home every night to my wife and two daughters and that every member of my staff gets to go home to their families as well. My faith is the foundation for my life. There’s only so much dependence you can put in a bullet-proof vest.”
Constantly facing an ever-increasing weight of demands placed on him each day, Luke leans heavily upon his favorite Bible verse, “But, Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16 NIV). “If I want to be more like Jesus, I have to find those lonely places to be in communion with the Father, especially when the demands of the world are all around.”
This police chief’s faith journey has also led him to write a devotional book, So, You’re a Christian. Who Knew? Readers explore four of Jesus’ commands—to love God, to love others, to love themselves, and to love like Jesus loved—and are challenged to develop a closer walk with God.
Chief Luke Thompson is a leader whose life is firmly anchored on the rock of Christ. “Law enforcement is a people business. Jesus is in the people business. I believe I’m right where God’s called me to be.”
Sherye S. Green is a Jacksonian, a teacher at Madison-Ridgeland Academy, and a wife, mother, and grandmother. Sherye and her husband, Mark, are members of First Baptist Church Jackson. She is also the author of Abandon Not My Soul.