KENNESAW, Ga. — Early each Friday morning, a group of uniformed law enforcement Command Staff in Kennesaw, Georgia, gathers at a local coworking space for coffee and a dose of biblical wisdom as together they study “Spiritual Leadership” by Henry and Richard Blackaby.
The group’s leader, Dan Salter, understands the unique challenges these men must overcome. In 2017, he retired from a 31-year career in drug law enforcement. He now serves as the executive director for the Atlanta-Carolinas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), a commingled task force funded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
“These men are facing a lot of junk right now,” Salter said. “It’s hard to compare what we go through in law enforcement to Corporate America. Corporations care about the bottom line; our bottom line can be the difference between life and death.”
Salter said he got the idea to start these groups when he participated in a Bible study for Chiefs of Police and Special Agents in Charge led by Mike Linch, pastor of NorthStar Church in Kennesaw, Georgia.
“We did ‘Spiritual Leadership,’ and it was a great book,” Salter said. “I was at the end of my career and thinking, ‘Man, I wish I’d had this book 15 years ago.’”
As the group neared the end of the study, Linch encouraged the members to start Bible study groups of their own.
“I started praying about it and thinking about what it would look like if we had command staff from the police department around here going through this study,” Salter said. “Would it change the way they lead in law enforcement? Would it change the way the public perceives law enforcement? Would it change the way their officers respond to the public? I was convinced that it would.”
The first group Salter led through “Spiritual Leadership” included five Command Staff officers from the Smyrna police department. Their response was overwhelmingly positive.
“They loved it,” Salter said. “Some of the testimonies were, ‘I wish I’d had this five years ago,’ and, ‘This changed the way I talked to my people and look at critical incidences.’ Because they’re dealing with life-and-death situations.”
After the Smyrna group finished the study, Salter started a combine group, with command staff from the Kennesaw and Acworth Police Departments.
“There are 11 Command Staff Officers on the roster, and we’re getting the same results,” Salter said. “My whole thought process was kind of doing this fraternity of law enforcement men and women who have gone through the study.”
After a group finishes the study, Salter said he has the men write a message in their book to the next reader. Some of the men have even included their name, badge number and phone number for the recipient to call if he or she needs support, prayer or encouragement.
As of now, the groups consist only of Command Staff officers but Salter said he hopes to see a trickle-down effect that eventually reaches every level of law enforcement.
“We’re doing it for the Command Staff,” Salter said. “But maybe the next iteration would be for the first-line supervisors and, pretty soon, you’ll have it down from the Chief to the Major to the Captain to the Lieutenant to the Sergeant all the way down to the Troops where it’s going to make a big difference for your next generation of leaders.”
For Salter, there is no limit to where the chain of events could lead.
“I really think this thing is bigger than just one or two departments in north Georgia, and it all started with ‘Spiritual Leadership,’ Salter said. “There are thousands of books on leadership, but sometimes they can get away from the Ultimate Leader and the ultimate goal of salvation This is a great book to introduce people to spiritual leadership who may not have any idea what it looks like.”