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AS one of the Columbus Police Department chaplains, I am extended the courtesy of joining the officers on ride-alongs as they serve our community.
I quickly learned that I am definitely not there to protect them. Instead, they’re there to protect me. I’ve been in their cruisers every Friday for the past couple of months, and I have gained a whole new perspective on what they do, who they are, and how we as the Columbus community, and the Columbus faith community, can support them.
Every ride-along is an incredible learning experience, a rolling classroom about our laws and the responsibilities that each law officer has chosen to fulfill. During the first two minutes of my first ride-along, I was impressed with how the officer handled so many things at the same time.
The officer was driving the squad car, looking out for situations that needed a response, listening and communicating to dispatch, working with other officers, and having an incredible awareness of all those things — all at the same time.
Their patrolling through our community is both proactive and reactive at the same time. Yes, they watch for street activity and traffic problems such as speeding, traffic-sign violations, unsafe driving and expired plates. In doing so, they are constantly ready to respond to more urgent situations such as domestic disputes, fights, theft, accidents, suspicious activities or many other circumstances.
Every officer I have been with has displayed a professional and compassionate approach to every person,regardless of the circumstance of their encounter. Angry, agitated, uncooperative people, including those under the influenced of drugs or alcohol, have been dealt with quickly and in a calm manner, for everyone’s safety.
Recently, a routine police call about four people in an apartment escalated quickly into a situation that required extra officers, mobilization of the SWAT team including snipers, and canine units. As the officer that I was riding with pulled out his shotgun, he also pulled out a Kevlar vest, gave it to me and told me to go stand in the shade.
Another officer apologetically put me back in the squad car — again for my safety. He said something about God being mad at him if I got hurt.
Our Columbus police officers are men and women, husbands and wives, moms and dads, community members, church folk. They are people who love and live life just like you and I do. And although they are like you and me, there is one notable exception about them.
They have committed themselves to serve us, putting their lives on the line during every shift that they work. Each time they walk up to a car or knock on a door, or with every encounter, they don’t know what they are stepping into — and that gives them an expectant edge as they fulfill their duties.
Riding in our police cars will give anyone a new perspective of both our community, and of our public servants. The department chaplains — me, the Rev. Larry Rowe of Second Baptist and the Rev. Patrick Galligar from St. Peter’s Lutheran Church — are committed to assist our police department through spiritual support, such as prayers and monthly chapel gatherings, and personal support through our ride-alongs.
We also have committed ourselves as first-responders to them and to the community as needed. They have our numbers and a published schedule to call upon us whenever they feel we are needed.
My ride-alongs have made me appreciate them and their work so much more, and my admiration for them has skyrocketed.
I’d like to encourage the Columbus community to join me in respect and support for them. Please pray for their safety. Pray for their home life and pray for their service as they commit themselves to protect and serve us all.
Give them your public support and gratitude as they’re looking out for your best interests.
They deserve it.
Besides being a Columbus Police Department chaplain, Columbus’ Al White, a former pastor and associate pastor, is founder and leader of Better Together Consulting. He can be reached at bettertogetherconsulting.com.
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