“Why don’t you join me one night for a ride along?” That was the question posed to me several weeks ago by a buddy of mine—a guy who happens to be an Arvada police officer. In an effort to keep him anonymous, let’s call my friend “David”.
Now, David has been a cop for over 5 years and has taken the nightshift (9PM to 6AM) for the past 3 years. And even though I had heard stories about ride alongs from the other guys here on staff, I really didn’t know what to expect when I showed up at the Arvada Police station at 8:45PM a couple of weeks ago. David met me in the lobby, suited up and ready to go. His Kevlar vest was evident under his standard-issue police uniform…causing me to wonder, “Do I need a Kevlar vest?”
David gave me a quick tour of the Arvada Police Station. He showed me the interrogation rooms (Cool), the holding cells (Cool) and the CSI Lab (Very cool!). Then we loaded up in his patrol car and hit the streets—but only after I signed a waiver relinquishing the City of Arvada of any responsibility, should something go south while I was doing my riding along (Again I wondered, “Am I going to need a Kevlar vest?”).
David and I rolled through the streets of Arvada under the heavy snow that was falling that night and by the time he dropped me back off at the station after 2AM…we had answered 5 different calls. It was an eye-opening experience for me. Not only did I get a peek into the life of a cop, I got to run headlong into the reality that (1) I am VERY naïve and (2) I am VERY sheltered (like most of us) from the very real and very dark world that exists in the wee hours of the night.
The thing that stood out to me the most about my ride along was this: Out of the 5 calls we responded to that Wednesday night, 3 of the 5 revolved around (a) alcohol and/or drugs (b) broken sexual relationships or (c) both. When David got the call about a “domestic disturbance” on the north side of town, we raced over and assisted a young woman and her mother standing in the cold. They were huddled around the daughter’s car because the rear window had been bashed out by the jealous ex-girlfriend of the daughter’s current boyfriend. At one point I thought I was going to need a scorecard to keep up with the relational mess that was being explained to us. In the end, it was as the old saying goes, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”…especially if the woman has a baby with the man who ditched her.
And this was just the beginning of the night.
As the evening wore on, we answered 2 other “domestic disturbance” calls—each one, sad and pitiful in its own way. The last domestic disturbance call we answered involved a fight at an apartment complex. There were multiple people involved, and one of the people involved fled the scene. By the time David and I arrived, 2 other Arvada police officers were handling the scene at the apartment, so David and I went on a hunt…in the snow…trying to track down the person who fled the scene. I have to admit…it was pretty cool! So cool that I forgot all about my possible need for a Kevlar vest. It was like something out of a movie. David and I followed the fresh footprints in the snow…which eventually led to an inebriated, shivering young man standing in the dark of the apartment complex playground.
I won’t go into all the sordid details other than to say that this young man had been involved in a sexual tryst…with two other people…and when confronted by the friend of one of the consenting adults…words were exchanged and a fight broke out. David asked me to stay in the patrol car while he and the other two cops questioned the young man. I have to say this: I have never heard the phrase “three way” used in such a short span of time. Once the young man owned up to his involvement in the “three way”…and after he explained his part in the fight that ensued…we were back on the snowy streets…headed back to the station.
I asked David on the way back, “How do you NOT become jaded and cynical about life?” His answer amazed and humbled me. David replied, “You know this: Everyone has the capability for evil or good, and even though I see a lot of evil, I think my role as a cop is to show Christ…to be Jesus to everyone I come into contact with…to show everyone…no matter what they’ve done…grace and mercy and respect.”
WOW! That hurt.
After I got home and climbed into bed at 3AM…I laid in the dark replaying everything we did on that ride along. But David’s words kept echoing in my head, convicting me. And I had to ask myself, “Are you doing the same? Are you showing grace and mercy and respect to everyone you come in contact with?” The cold, hard truth is this: No. No I don’t. I can be judgmental and dismissive and merciless. I have the tendency to overlook those in need and discount those who find themselves in tough spots—like the people we ran across during the ride along.
It was sobering.
I don’t know how David does it. Wait…no. That’s not true. David said it himself. It’s Jesus living in him, directing David’s thoughts and actions. What a great model for you and me…and what an asset for the City of Arvada. Jesus in a patrol car…wearing Kevlar and a smile…living out Micah 6:8:
He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Thanks again, “David”. Be careful out there as you protect and serve.