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From drug busts to sermons: A cop’s journey to faith

In a riveting podcast, an undercover cop-turned-pastor shares his extraordinary journey of faith and law enforcement.

For over a decade, Dale Sutherland balanced his life between being a youth pastor and an undercover narcotics officer in Washington, D.C. His experiences, now shared in the podcast “Cops, Criminals and Christ,” reveal the complexities of living dual lives and the spiritual growth he encountered through his work.

From Undercover Operations to Pastoral Care

Sutherland’s journey began with a desire to understand the struggles of the communities he aimed to serve. Initially planning to enter the ministry, he spent a year in law enforcement to gain firsthand experience, which led to a 29-year career. His time as an undercover officer, especially during the peak of the crack epidemic in the late 1980s, exposed him to the harsh realities of drug-related violence.

Throughout his career, Sutherland maintained his faith, even as he navigated the dangerous and morally challenging world of narcotics enforcement. His podcast highlights the intersection of faith and duty, offering listeners a unique perspective on the spiritual dimensions of police work.

Bridging Communities and Building Trust

Post-retirement, Sutherland continues to bridge the gap between law enforcement and communities through his organization, Code3, which fosters cooperation between police and civilians. His dual roles have provided him with a unique platform to advocate for understanding and collaboration (The Roys Report ) (ChurchLeaders).

Sutherland’s stories of facing drug lords and negotiating his faith provide a compelling narrative of resilience and redemption. His transition from the high-stakes world of narcotics to the spiritual realm of pastoral care showcases the profound impact of faith on personal transformation and community building.

A Life of Faith and Duty

Growing up, Sutherland attended nondenominational churches and decided at a young age to go into ministry to serve children. At 21, just as he was heading to Washington Bible College, he chose to work in law enforcement for a year to observe firsthand the challenges faced by the communities he would pastor. This decision turned into a lifelong commitment to both law enforcement and ministry.

As an undercover officer, Sutherland faced the dangers of drug-related violence head-on. The crack epidemic of the late 1980s transformed Washington, D.C., with violence becoming a daily occurrence. Sutherland’s work often involved becoming a regular presence in drug-heavy neighborhoods, gaining the trust of dealers before making arrests. His experiences during this time were harrowing and spiritually enriching.

Lessons from the Front Lines

In his podcast, Sutherland reflects on the ethical and spiritual dilemmas he faced. He discusses how his undercover work sometimes felt at odds with his faith, prompting deep introspection about his role and the impact he was making. Despite these challenges, Sutherland found that his encounters with criminals, addicts, and fellow officers all contributed to his spiritual growth and understanding.

Dale Sutherland’s story is a testament to the power of faith in the face of adversity. His podcast not only sheds light on the life of an undercover officer but also inspires listeners with stories of redemption and spiritual resilience. Through his dual roles in law enforcement and ministry, Sutherland has made a lasting impact on the communities he serves, advocating for trust, cooperation, and understanding between police and civilians.


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