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Friday, November 6, 2009

Ride Alongs

Before a person can ride along with a deputy Sheriff, he must sign away his life. That is to say, the document contains a wide disclaimer that eliminates my family from profiting in a lawsuit over my demise when it occurs during a ride along. I have survived long enough to tell you that there is more than one reason for that disclaimer. The odds that I might be taken out by a criminal are very slim. It's the wild driving of the deputy that put my life in jeopardy.

I want to tell you up front that the Sheriff deputies are easily the worst drivers I have ever endured. Clergy Volunteers usually rode along for only half a shift, and that was enough white knuckling for the evening. One of the deputies told me he wanted to be a Sheriff deputy so he could shoot a gun and drive fast. I'm not at all sure he was kidding. Sometimes the deputy with whom I rode treated me like part of a team. Other times I was made to feel like I was in the way--a mister butinski. Sometimes I rode in a "crime car" and other times I was in a "traffic car". Those two are different worlds.

Only when the call determines may a car use siren and flashing lights. But the deputies drove as though they were always on code 3. This makes for some harrowing experiences. I was sure we were going to be in a wreck, and the anticipated impact would have been at my side door. Thanks to the good brakes of a citizen, left swearing behind us, we were spared the accident.

One of the deputies taught me how to unlock the shotgun, "just in case". I remember tiptoeing behind him as we surveyed the halls of a local business. With his piece drawn, we were looking for a burglar in action. Nothing came of it, but the code we had received indicated burglary in progress.

More than once I was disdained as a potential hazard and certain to be useless during my tour of half the deputy's shift. I'm sure that clergy more clever than I were able to share the gospel with more deputies than I did. We had a captain at the local precinct who was a Christian, and he wanted us to be there. We were intended to be a liaison between the uniform and the general public, and sometimes it worked well.

Once on a code 3 call we arrived after the rescue team treated and transported a little girl who had swallowed something toxic from under the kitchen sink. But when grandma saw that I was a minister she grabbed hold of me and wept. We sat in the living room and I talked her down from her fear and panic. The deputy had another call, but he saw I was doing some good for this lady so he left me there to answer the next call, promising to pick me up after that. I knew the minister who baptized this woman and that enhanced my rapport with her. The deputy is never supposed to leave his ride along, but it worked this time.

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