HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. — Protective gear and weapons may be the some of the most important tools law enforcement officers carry each day, but if you ask some of them, you may find out there are a few things that bring as much peace of mind as their bulletproof vest.
As a rookie cop right out of police academy in 1998, Officer Paul Ray noticed something his training officer Scott Mayes did — he kept personal keepsakes in his uniform pocket, things that were important to him or reminded him of why he did his job.
Ray liked the idea and followed suit, putting in his pocket a copy of the Miranda Warning card each new officer receives during academy.
“Our instructors told us to always have this on us,” Ray said. “Twenty years later, I still have that with me. It’s been in my pocket since 1998.”
He’s not alone either.
Cpt. Greg Koehler, who also joined Hopkinsville Police Department in 1998, also keeps his Miranda Warning card in his pocket, though had to replace it at some point because it became too tattered along the way. He also keeps the steps for a standard field sobriety test, an implied consent warning card and a consular notification card for dealing with foreign nationals.
While the procedure cards may help them be reminded of their jobs and why they do it, equally important to them are the items they carry that don’t necessarily relate to their police work.
“Anybody that knows me knows that I am a fan of the music group Kiss,” Ray said, pointing to a pin with the band’s name on it.
That pin was put there in 1998, and since that time, he’s added another item that shows the important role music has had in his life — a guitar pick from blues-rock guitarist Joe Bonamassa he got at a concert.
He also carries a coin with the Policeman’s Prayer that was given to him by his mother-in-law shortly after he became a police officer, and a Saint Michaels charm he received during a Blue Mass service for first responders at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church.
Of course, Ray’s most treasured items are photos of his wife, son and two daughters. The photos, which he laminated several years back to keep them from getting worn, were added over the years. There is his 8-month-old son, who was born while Ray was in academy in 1998; his wife and oldest daughter on a trip to the beach after she was born in 2001; and his youngest daughter, born in 2006.
Just as important as his family photos is a cross with the words Jesus Saves written as an acrostic. It was given to him by a woman who was lost and in need of directions. Ray realized quickly it would be hard for him to explain, so he just had her follow his patrol car to his location. When they arrived, she gave him the cross as a thank you.
“This means as much to me as my family pictures,” he said.
Like Ray, Koehler also carries a few items help him remember his faith. That includes a coin with the Lord Help Me Remember prayer on it as well as a penny with a small cross cut out in the center of it and a dollar coin.
On the dollar coin, Koehler said it was given to him by his father-in-law who always carried them with him. A few years back, he responded to a wreck that claimed the life of his father-in-law. That moment “changed his perspective on things” and led him back to church, he said.
After completing the Emmaus Walk, his mother-in-law gave him the penny with a cross cut out in the center.
“It reminds me of her,” he said of his mother-in-law who has now also passed away. “It reminds me of where I’m supposed to be. I saw it protects me.”
He said he’s lost the penny more times than he can count, but always finds it. It’s a strange feeling not having it with him, saying it feels like he forgot his gun.
“That’s probably the most significant thing I carry,” he said.
On days when Koehler is particularly stressed, he finds himself subconsciously reaching for his pocket to make sure the items are with him.
“It helps me feel more secure, that I’m not alone,” he said. “My family’s with me. God’s with me.”
Ray echoed Koehler’s words about feeling protected by the personal keepsakes he carries. Unlike Koehler, however, Ray says he’s only forgotten his items once. His heart sunk the day he reached and felt nothing there.
“When it was not in my pocket I felt uneasy,” he said. “As soon as I was able to get back to my house, I got them and put them back.”
He equated it to taking a sugar pill, knowing that nothing was any more likely to happen to him without the items there, but feeling better when they were with him.
“Being a young patrolman, I needed a little bit more security than my bulletproof vest,” he said. “Twenty years later, it seems to have worked out.”
Information from: Kentucky New Era, http://www.kentuckynewera.com