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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

BAD COP! NO Donut!

For some reason, recently I have come across three people who attended Law Enforcement skills training at the school I went to back in 1995. Two of the men I met attended the same 10-week program I did (as part of their four year B.A. degree), and today I met one who is obtaining an AA degree in Law Enforcement at that school.

I immediately inquired about the instructors, naming them. Most are still there, and it sounds like there are some new faces, too. My instructors are all close to retirement, and I consider that to be a loss for the new cadets coming through the program of the near future, although I am certain that they are passing on the torch in an appropriate manner. I pray the program, and thus all the students, will remain in good hands.

Although I discerned early on in my career that law enforcement is not for me, I will forever value the time I spent at Alexandria, and the challenges I was forced to face, one of which I wrote about as I mused the grace God provides to the martyrs.

As it turns out, much of what I learned in the past has provided an aid to understanding the spiritual life. But what I'm going to talk about today is really more about stereotypical humor than anything else.

With all the heaviness on my blog lately, it seems to me that some lighthearted remembrances are needed. I know that some people read my blog because they think I'm a good storyteller, thus I hope to continue to live up to their expectations. Besides; as we all know, telling stories can be cathartic and uplifting, both for the storyteller and those "listening."

Local Connections

This evening, after work at a gathering I attended, I met a young man who is in training now for Law Enforcement. As I walked into the house to "go get a plate!" in obedience to my hostess, another friend stopped me, telling this young man that I used to be a cop and he should talk to me. I stopped and chatted with him, and as it was, we spoke a great deal this evening. Please keep him in your prayers; he is young, enthusiastic, from a faithful family, and I think he'll make a great Police Officer.

Of course, as it is with anyone in the same field, we have to "talk shop", and cops, near-cops, and ex-cops just LOVE to swap stories! He hasn't gotten to some of the stuff we experienced in skills yet, but will in the coming year. Training is fun; there's no risk other than failure in the class, and that is the time to make mistakes - when they can be corrected and when they are not life-threatening for anyone. "Failures" can be re-tested and overcome. But before the tests come the practice, the introduction to new concepts and skills...and quite often, hilarity ensues as we all know, thanks to shows like COPS and the like, what certain events are SUPPOSED to look like.

In training, though, things don't always go that way.

Our introduction to traffic stops involved not the school's squad cars, but our own vehicles. Two students volunteered the use of their own personal vehicles, so we lined them up properly, with the "squad" in back of the "target" car, positioned so that the squad was offset for both lighting and safety purposes. This took place on the gravel "roads" built into the Skills Center designed at the school for the purpose of a myriad of police training scenarios.

We were learning not so much how to initiate a traffic stop, but how to discern when to stand ground and command, versus find cover and draw our weapons in preparation to use deadly force. It was something akin to a "draw / don't draw" scenario, the former of which would also require finding cover.

The instructor was giving each driver "secret" instructions before every scenario, so that the "officer" wasn't always looking at the same thing. The element of surprise was constantly present. It wasn't an ambush by any means, just a necessary play on our reactions.

I watched as several students had to determine whether to dive behind the car and draw their weapon, or simply order the the person to get back into the vehicle, keeping their hands in sight, etc. I was admittedly nervous...we all were. But we were also ready and excited for this exercise.


When it was my turn, my friend and roommate was the person being "pulled over". At the start of the scenario, when signaled, I got out of the "squad" and began to approach the target vehicle.

My friend got out, holding something in her hand.

I reacted quickly, beginning to move behind the car for cover as I reached for my sidearm. (We were carrying training guns).

Just as I made my move, I immediately recognized that what she held in her hand was not really a threat to anyone but the gluttinous; it was a donut bag.

I stopped, and for some reason, the censer in my head was asleep at the switch so I exclaimed aloud, in great surprise, "THAT'S not a GUN!"

My class, standing at the "shoulder" of the road, doubled over laughing. I was too focused on what I was doing to be fully embarassed yet, realizing it would be better to finish the scenario before slinking into non-existence.

I stood tall and ordered my Target flatly (and somewhat sheepishly) to "Drop the bag!"

She obeyed immediately. Then I arrested her.

The class roared.

From that point on, one of our class jokes went as thus:

Posing in the correct firing position, holding the "gun", that being a hand mimicing a handgun cupped in the other hand as we would stand at the range. Firm expression. Loud, commanding voice.






I'm so proud of myself.

My very first traffic stop not only earned me a common greeting of "THAT'S not a GUN!" to the above scenario, played out over and over again. And I was a willing participant, finding it, of course, HILARIOUS that she got out of the car with a donut bag, of all things! I can't remember whose car that was, but I know he got ribbed for indulging in the donuts even before he was hired!

Yes, cops do laugh at themselves and their stereotypes, especially when they inadvertantly occur.

The Link Between Experience and Spiritual Life

If you know any police officers, military personnel, firefighters, etc., take some time and ask them to tell their stories. As especially about their bloopers in training. Everyone has them, and most of them are things that would seem like common sense to anyone not actually facing that moment. You never know how you will react. Sometimes training will tell, sometimes it won't. Sometimes it doesn't come together for you until the very "moment of truth" on the real job itself, and in that moment, you pray your training will overcome your humanity for a moment. But in training itself, often your humanity will dominate...and that's when you learn the most.

In the spiritual life, it is the same. So many things are an introduction or a test of some sort for us, sometimes our efforts, even the most brave of our efforts, are complete disasters. Sometimes we are successful, and sometimes we step forward and are surprised when things don't proceed as we expect...and we, in turn, respond in ways we don't expect. Relax. This is an opportunity to learn. It is a chance to take stock of where we are and realize, in all humility, that we have not "graduated" yet, God is not expecting perfection, and that we have to be prepared to make mistakes. If we don't stumble, in reality, we aren't learning much. We need to take risks, we need to step into the unknown in order to face the training scenarios God has in store for us. If we "fail", keep in mind that God has a sense of humor, wants us to learn from our failures but also see the humor in them because...let's face it. Sometimes our foibles are funny. It's OK to laugh at ourselves, learn the lesson, and move on. It takes genuine humility to laugh at our mistakes.

Tonight was a great evening, both in fellowship with good friends, and in meeting the next generation in law enforcement. I hope he makes even more mistakes than I did in training; those mistakes at the right time will make him a better cop when it really counts and when someone's life is on the line.

I also hope he doesn't become obsessed with donuts, but that's another story....


Hidden One said...

*stifling tremendous amounts of laughter.

Fr. V said...


Thanks for the laugh.

And you are right on. Many spiritual exercises have as part of them that you share the experience - something happens when we do that (hence another reason why we have spiritual directors.)

Father Schnippel said...

I'm glad nothing like that ever happens in the seminary... chortles, tries to hold back the laughter, tears approaching... Gives me an idea for my own blog post this evening.

Adoro said...

hidden one ~ :-)

Fr. V. ~ For those who are blessed enough to have an SD. I'm not one of those blessed people. *sigh*

Fr. Kyle ~ I read your any more where that one came from? LOL!