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Monday, May 27, 2013

Out of the Two comes One . Part Nine:

I guess the only struggle—the one worth actually fighting about is the one we most often overlook: the human struggle. I saw it first while growing up in the dusty red dirt streets of my Selma, Alabama hometown, but in child-like innocence failed to recognize it as such. I saw it again when I joined the U.S. Marines, but thought it was just boys being boys.  Then in becoming a peace officer, I saw this struggle in a whole new light.

On becoming a police officer, if you will remember my mentioning in an earlier post, one of the first things you experience is the heavy badge. You get this belief that you’re great—that you’re awesome. Not unlike the young Marine who believes he can take on the entire U.S. Army and Navy alone, with one arm tied behind his back just to make the fight fair. Well in transitioning into that world of good guys verses bad guys, cops verses robbers, I saw this human struggle again. This time in the faces of the wives, husbands, children, mothers and fathers who were left to try to put life into some form of normal once their loved one had decided to cross that line.

I watched as young brides kissed dirty glass windows, because the lips of the person they loved were on the other side. Women exposing themselves to hands that would never caress them, and children crying for a daddy they might never know.  This was the same struggle seen in the faces of the empty-eyed deputies who slept in the bunkroom because he or she could not face going home to the person they vowed to love forever. Or hearing the latest gossip of two married officers caught having sex in the parking lot just outside the HQ. 

This…is the human struggle.

My point—it wasn’t until truly seeing “people” in the light, or rather the darkness of their fallen condition, consumed and blinded by sin and its effects, was I really able to see myself in the proper perspective. For after all, I too am human and have my part in the human struggle. Think about it….Just saying.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Out of the Two comes One: Part Eight

As a peace officer, as part of the job, I am constantly asked to make moral decisions, decisions where my judgment is the sole basis on what action I should or should not take in the query of taking a human life. 

For a basis of discussion, on a routine traffic stop, - and there is no such thing as routine- do I issue a citation or do I give a warning? Even in the matter of a misdemeanor arrest, do I take my arrestee to jail or do I issue a summons and release them in the trust that they will show up for court?  These are all to some degree a moral question, what is right? What is best?

A misdemeanor is a secondary level offense where the punishment is limited to a maximum of one year in county jail and up to $1,000 in fines. On the other hand, a Felony is the highest level of offense where the violation is punishable of any fine amount and can result in sentencing of a minimum of one year in State Prison up to life, and or death as deemed appropriate by the court. The lowest level is an infraction and is only punishable by a fine. So there it is the three levels. 

In my 25 plus years of service, I have never had to shoot anyone in the line of duty---but I have come very close and been close to being shot as well. I was never hit and the suspects were taken into custody.  But, with that said, to shoot or not to shoot is a question I had to answer over two decades ago. This, like any other, is just one of many moral decisions I have to make on a daily basis. If you think about it, it is not too unlike what each of you are called everyday to do: to decide the right or the wrong of any given matter. Think about it….Just saying.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Out of the Two comes One

After a short detour to the question of wisdom, I thought we'd return to the exploration of my two worlds the pulpit and the pavement; the life of a cop that's a preacher. 
Part Seven:

The question of the spiritual is one that often comes up. Let me assure you, it is very real. This is perhaps the one juncture where my two worlds have their greatest overlap. When you think about it, aren’t all the moral questions, the questions of right and wrong, questions of the heart— not the heart in the romantic sense, but in the sense of judgment, of truth—of what we see ultimately as being truth.  

There was an occasion when a gentleman had been booked in for a rather heinous crime involving the rape and torture of a child. This man was demon possessed. He would often sit in his cell and have conversations with his unseen host. Now, I know there is such a thing as being mentally ill, but a person who is truly enduring a psychotic episode does, not respond to the verbal command to stop.  Verbal commands have little effect in derailing either auditory or visual hallucinations. 

This particular inmate was self-destructive and violent. He was known to cut himself and use his own blood to paint his cell and write inscriptions on the walls. On this particular day in question, he had taken his reinforced plastic lunch tray and snapped it into several pieces—pieces that could be used as a weapon. It was my job to escort the doctor into the cell in order to administer his medication…i.e., something that would make him sleep.

Because it was my job and pleasure to be the one wearing the badge, I entered the cell approximately three minutes before the doctor. When I entered, this man was growling and cutting himself with a shared from the tray. I stood a safe distance away for him, which was only about five feet in this small cell, and addressed him. I began by saying, “I know you know who I am, and I know you know who Jesus is.” Then I told him that because he knew who Jesus was, I knew he knew he could not touch me. I then told him that he was bound by the power and authority of the name of Jesus, and that he was not allowed to speak or interact as long as the doctor was in the cell…that I only wanted to hear from and speak to the real person whose body it was. 

He immediately sat and the growling stopped. He then looked at me with the most pitiful eyes I’d ever seen. Just about that time, the doc walked in and did his routine. On the way out he thanked me for my ability to work with the mentally ill.  I laughed and told him the same story I just told you.  He nodded, giggled, and walked away shaking his head. 

I turned and looked back up at the cell I had just secured behind the doc and myself to see that same inmate raging at an unseen guest, cursing at the world. Of course a few minutes later, he was sound asleep, curled in a ball on the floor. But the point of the story is yes…oh yes, the spiritual is very real ….Just saying.