Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

Police Ride Along

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Red and blue lights shine in your rearview mirror, strobing back and forth. Your heart sinks, and your anxiety kicks in full steam. There is a police officer behind you, pulling you over for speeding or some other infraction. That's one of the worst feelings.

But, what is it like from the officer's perspective?

Growing up, it had been a desire of mine to ride along with a police officer and check out the action from the officer's side of the steering wheel. I was fascinated by police work from watching re-runs of "CHiPs" as part of my morning routine before school started. My brother and I would re-enact scenes from the show in our driveway on our bicycles. He was Ponch and I was Jon Baker.

I recently had the opportunity to ride along with an Evansville Police Department commander and Saint Meinrad alumnus, Dr. Darren Sroufe. Darren serves on our Alumni Board, and I half jokingly asked if I could do a ride-along with him some day. He said he would gladly take me along.

Last September, I went on a ride-along with Darren in the Offender Transport Vehicle, a reinforced 18-passenger van with benches lining the sides in the back. This van is used mostly for transporting offenders who have been arrested to the jail.

I could go on and on about the different situations we found ourselves in, but my biggest takeaway from the experience was how tense I felt during and after our shift.

We responded to some nuisance-ridden areas, and I was very alert to my surroundings. I tried very hard to listen to the details folks shared with us about a crime they may have witnessed.

I watched as they waved their hands around. I stared intently at their facial expressions, trying to discern if they were being truthful. I stayed attuned to my peripheral vision to pay attention to our surroundings. All this while trying to be engaged with those with whom we were interacting and following Darren's lead.

I asked myself: is this what every response, traffic stop and investigation is like for a police officer? Does this internal stress go away? How long can one stay so alert?

There is a wonderful charity and fraternity among police officers because they know the rigors and stresses that come with the job. When they are working, they have to be objective, unbiased, professional and cautiously alert. They don't know who has a weapon or how someone will respond.

I enjoyed my ride-along and it helped me understand the perspective of the officer's side of the wheel. It gave me a greater respect for the role law enforcement officers have in our community, and now I better understand some of the tense and heated encounters they face.

Always obey the laws, but if you do slip up and are pulled over by a police officer, remember that he or she might be coming from a very adrenaline-stimulated and dangerous situation. For Jesus says, "I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)

Despite how inconvenient, embarrassing and disappointing it can be to be pulled over, you could be the bright spot in an officer's day, and you can share your faith with the officer by having a good attitude and a humble spirit.

Here's to wishing you safe driving, and may God continue to bless our law enforcement officers and emergency responders.

Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.


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