“It was a rough time!” Robert Vernon said to describe his last 18 months as assistant chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. While cries of outrage rained down on the police department because of the Rodney King incident, Vernon battled a conspiracy that was to prevent him from becoming chief of the LAPD upon Daryl Gates’ retirement.
He believes that the homosexual community, some liberal politicians, and a couple of “friends” in the department used the media to malign his name and thwart his promotion. Vernon retired from law enforcement in 1992 after almost 38 years with the LAPD and 12 years as its Assistant Chief of Police. He and his wife, Esther, moved to Bonsall two years ago.
Vernon, a Christian since he was 12, said his faith was tested and strengthened during that difficult period. “On the logical level, I never said God doesn’t know what He is doing, but I struggled emotionally because I felt abandoned. Esther and I dealt with (the negative publicity and disappointments) through prayer and immersing ourselves in the Word of God, particularly the Psalms.” They received tremendous support from their family, Christian friends, and even non-Christians who said they didn’t believe the newspapers.
Vernon, 63, recognizes the “good” that came out of his ordeal. “My character has been strengthened,” he said. “I believe character requires stress to form it just as a physical body requires stress to develop it.” He learned from Romans 5:3-5 to persevere and not give in to it. He believes he has more passion and conviction now. Another positive result of Vernon’s experiences was a change in his retirement plans. “God took me not only out of Los Angeles but out of the profession as well,” he said. “I couldn’t get a job, and then these opportunities opened up for me to help previous Eastern bloc countries.”
His first opportunity came while he was visiting the Czech Republic. He met Stanislav Novotny, the president of the National Police at the time, who invited him to present a three-day seminar to top police officials on Christian Ethics and Philosophy as it applies to police leadership. “At the end, I showed the Jesus video,” Vernon said, “and 40 percent of the officials indicated they wanted to make a commitment to Christ.” He began receiving invitations to speak in Hungary, Albania, Mongolia, Russia, and China.
Last September, Vernon presented his ethics seminar using Biblical principles in Beijing, China, to 200 top police officials. “They loved the ancient principles and proverbs and the ten principles (Ten Commandments) from the ancient Hebrews,” he said. When the Chinese asked him to come back and have the principles translated so they could read them, Vernon explained that his principles are taken from the Bible and already available in the Chinese language. When they asked him his motive for presenting his seminar without charge, he answered, “I am a follower of Jesus Christ and feel a responsibility to help my brother and sister professionals in law enforcement to understand some of the ancient principles that make better leadership and a more democratized police department.” He and his team will return to China in September to present another seminar.
When the police chiefs in the United States heard about Vernon’s seminars, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) asked him to give them a sample in Phoenix last October. Since then, he has received invitations to take his seminar all over the United States.
“I have less freedom to share the gospel in our country than I do in Moscow,” Vernon said. Here he must separate his spiritual presentation from the professional seminar. In some places, he cannot use the same facility for the spiritual portion, but in most cases he gets an opportunity to meet with the people separately to give his testimony and present the gospel. Last May in Pennsylvania, Vernon presented his seminar to 220 leaders at the State Police Academy. At the end, he had permission to use the room for an additional 20 minutes for those who wished to stay on their own time without pay to hear “the most important thing I have to say to you today. I’m going to talk about God.” Only 15 people left; 205 stayed and heard the good news.
When Vernon spoke at the National Police Academy in Moscow, the government asked him to take a minimum of one hour a day teaching them what the Bible says. When he explained he cannot do that in the United States, they indicated that educated people should be able to decide for themselves what to accept and reject. Vernon has been back to Russia three times. During his last visit, the government asked him to talk about how to stop corruption within the police department.
Since his retirement from the LAPD, Vernon has been busy writing and speaking. He published his third book, L.A. Justice: Lessons from the Firestorm, in 1993 and recently finished writing his fourth book, Christian Ethics in Leadership. His speaking schedule is full through 1998.
Vernon spends one-third of his speaking time as a consultant, presenting seminars to police leaders in the United States. One third of his time is spent speaking in churches across the country, mainly at men’s conferences. He spends one third of his time in his foreign missions ministry through Pointman Ministries, the missions division of Hume Lake Christian Camps, Inc. He and team members donate their time for these missions and receive no fees or honorarium. Donations to the ministry help pay for team travel expenses, Bibles and Jesus videos. Vernon makes two to three trips a year to Europe and Asia where he covers two to three countries at a time. Last April, he traveled to Russia, Hungary, and Germany.
Based on the social problems Vernon has seen in Los Angeles, he sees no hope for our cities and nation from a natural point of view. “The only hope we have is a supernatural intervention of God and granting a spiritual revival,” he said. “I see more people recognizing the spiritual solutions to our social problems, and more people are praying. I see a sampling of people all over the United States when I speak, and I am seeing a great hunger for spiritual things.”
He firmly believes healthy families are crucial to a healthy society. He and Esther have been married 42 years and committed early in their marriage to make raising their children a priority. Today, their son and a daughter are both married, serving the Lord in ministry, and raising their nine children for the Lord.
Since Vernon was a teenager, he has believed and applied Proverbs 3:5-6 to his life. In fact, he always begins the first night of his men’s conferences with the Scripture, “Trust in the Lord紳nd He will direct your paths.” He applies the same Bible promise to his plans for the future. “I’ve learned not to limit God,” he said. “I’ll go wherever He leads.” All of the countries where he and his team have spoken have asked him back, and he and Esther will be entertaining international visitors in their home. In addition to speaking, he would like to do more writing and more radio. Sometimes he substitutes for radio talk host, Warren Duffy, on KKLA and KPRZ.
For more information about Vernon’s activities, write to Bob Vernon, P. O. Box 392, Bonsall, CA 92003.
Lorraine Espinosa of Bonita is a freelance writer.