Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Two Kinds of 'Back-Up'

Today, I went to a local print shop to pick up a banner for a "Prayer Station" I will set up outside of Wal-Marts on Saturdays. I parked my car at the rear of a medical clinic, next to the print shop.

As I walked out of the shop---banner in hand, I noticed a patrol car pull up to the curb in front of the medical clinic next door. Standing outside the front door of the clinic was a homeless woman, holding three large bags. She appeared to be in her fifties or sixties. A female officer exited the patrol car and walked toward the homeless woman. It was obvious to me that the officer was there for the woman.

I would later learn that the woman regularly comes to the clinic for various kinds of assistance. Today, for whatever reason, the workers inside the clinic locked the doors, refused entrance to the woman, and called the police.

The woman turned to see the officer walking toward her. She quickly walked away from the front door and down the driveway that led to the back of the building. The officer repeatedly ordered the woman to stop. She refused. Now walking in the same direction as the officer and the woman, I told her that she should obey the officer. She would have none of it.

As the three of us walked toward the back of the building, I told the officer that I was a retired deputy sheriff. "If it's all right with you," I said, "I'm going to stick around just to make sure everything is 'Code-4.'"

She looked at me and nodded her head. "Back-up" is on the way."

When we got to the back of the building, I stood a reasonable distance away (far enough away so as not to interfere with officer, but close enough to get to her if she needed help).

The officer ordered the woman to face the wall and place her hands behind her back. The officer's intent was to conduct a pat down search of the woman for weapons--a safe and reasonable thing to do. (It's what I would have done.) As soon as the officer put her hands on the woman's wrists, she became combative. She tried to turn toward the officer and break free of the officer's hold. Although older, the woman was larger than the officer.

The officer tried to gain control of the woman. When it didn't look like that would happen from a standing position, the officer took the woman to the ground.

Officers, retired or otherwise, never stand around and watch other officers fight.

I moved to where the two were now on the ground. I placed my knee between the woman's shoulder blades and grabbed her left arm. I wanted to keep the woman from reaching her hand underneath her body. The officer hadn't yet searched her and I didn't want the woman pulling a knife or other kind of weapon on us.

I quietly told the woman that she should stop resisting. She continued to struggle.

Moments later, two officers came around the side of the building. They had a certain look in their eye--the look an officer gets when he or she is rushing to help another officer in need. I know that look very well. And that look in the officers' eyes reminded me that I was not in uniform and they didn't know me.

"I'm a retired deputy! I'm a retired deputy!"

I wanted to make sure they clearly understood that I was not part of the problem. I stepped aside and let the other two officers take my place.

The woman continued to struggle for a few more moments until the officers were able to get her handcuffed.

The officer I assisted asked if I would stick around until her sergeant arrived; just in case he wanted to take a statement from me regarding the use of force.

"Sure. My time is your time." I said. "I'm going to go put this (my banner) in the car."

I had an ulterior motive. You see, in the center console of my car, I had my last Ten-Four Ministries Challenge Coin. I designed the first challenge coin for the ministry when I served as the director. Captain Travis Yates (Tulsa PD), the new director of the ministry, updated the coin recently. The challenge coin includes a small gospel tract insert.

I grabbed the coin and a few gospel tracts, and walked back to where the officers were still conversing with the woman. The folks inside the clinic were desirous of prosecution for trespassing, so it looked like the woman was going to be arrested. Since the woman appeared to have all of her mental faculties and seemed to be well enough to care for herself, I think the officers were going to issue her a citation and release her at the scene.

After the officer took statements from people inside the clinic and interviewed me regarding the use of force, she told me I was free to leave. She held out her hand.

"Thanks for the help."

"Glad to do it." I said. "And I have something for you."

I removed the challenge coin from my pocket and handed it to her.

"Stay safe out here. And God bless you."

She smiled and thanked me for the coin.

I didn't have a chance to talk to the other officers because they were still dealing with the woman. And I had hoped for an opportunity to put the gospel into her hands, but an appropriate opportunity didn't present itself. She was still very agitated and the officers were still trying to calm her down and obtain necessary information from her.

As I walked away, the sergeant and the other officers thanked me for the "back-up."

"Back-up." I guess today the Lord gave me an opportunity to provide an officer with two kind of "back-up"--physical and spiritual.

Please join me in praying for the officer--that she will read the tract and that the Lord will use it to draw her to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Maybe she will be the one to bring the Law and the Gospel to the law enforcement brethren on her department.

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