When Tim Lentz was appointed Covington police chief in 2013, one of his first moves was to remove the window tint from all of the Police Department’s cruisers. The tint, Lentz said at the time, created a barrier between his officers and the people who trusted them for protection.
Now, Lentz is adding something to those windows. And again, it’s about trust.
On Thursday, Lentz and others affixed stickers reading “In God We Trust” to the rear windows of about 10 of the department’s marked cars. He hopes to have stickers on all the marked vehicles by the end of the weekend.
Lentz said he got the idea after hearing about a police department in Texas that put similar stickers on its vehicles.
“In God We Trust” has been the nation’s motto since 1956, when President Dwight Eisenhower signed it into law.
The chief said he wanted to do something after reading news reports about officers around the country dying or being injured in the line of duty, including two Baton Rouge officers who were shot last week and a Jefferson Parish deputy who was shot last month.
“It hit me, like all deaths do,” Lentz said.
A small crowd gathered Thursday to watch as the stickers were applied, including some who lent a hand in attaching them. Local fire departments, the Louisiana State Police and Covington Mayor Mike Cooper all expressed support for the move.
But the reception has not been all positive.
Marjorie Esman, of the Louisiana chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the message could be misconstrued.
Putting the sticker on police cars “sends a message to the community that the police favor those who believe in ‘God’ under that name and not another name or who don’t believe at all,” Esman wrote in an email. “The public should know that the police are there for everyone equally, and a message like this could suggest otherwise.”
Lentz also got an email from a group calling itself “The Original Motto Project,” offering to provide free “E Pluribus Unum” bumper stickers for all of the Police Department’s cars.
Some commenters on the department’s Facebook page were more direct.
“Which God are they trusting in? The Christian God? The God of Thunder? Lucifer the dark lord? Buddha?” wrote Billy Berner.
Another commenter, who identified herself as an atheist, said she found the stickers “extremely inappropriate.”
Two posts about the move had garnered hundreds of comments, and Lentz said the posts had been viewed some 90,000 times.
People needn’t worry that the stickers will affect how Covington officers respond to calls, he said.
“If (critics) call the Covington Police Department, we will respond just as quickly to them as we would to a preacher,” he said.
Follow Faimon A. Roberts III on Twitter, @faimon.