His books have been read and his vest worn but his advice proved most valuable. "Alex, if you're going to connect with cops, you have to ride."
Each cruiser is equipped with GPS but officers just starting out are encouraged to learn street names and landmarks by memory. Learning how to read a paper map is also encouraged because technology failures should not prevent arrival to a scene. If the GPS isn't working, an adequately trained officer can still find his or her way.
Riding with officers has opened the city to me in unexpected ways. Lansing is split by a river into the North Side and South Side. Demographics, history and housing stock differ on either side of the river. Some streets are one way, some dead ends and some shortcuts between neighborhoods. Ride alongs have also underlined the importance of situational awareness.
Ride alongs are often at high speed with lights and sirens. A city blurring past the window can be confusing but cops maintain a sense of situational awareness. They can call out cardinal directions (north, south, east, west) on the radio, under duress. Night time rides are especially disorienting.
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A ride along is an intrusion. Many cops patrol alone, their passenger seats double as desk space for snacks, paperwork and bags of equipment. By sitting in the passenger seat for the entire shift, I am intruding. Situational awareness of my disruptive presence has uncovered the short cut of listening.
Asking open-ended questions, and leaving space for a cop's thoughtful answers, can build a connection. During moments of silence, prayer can be a shortcut to situational awareness. The Holy Spirit reveals opportunities to serve.
Clearing debris, directing traffic, occupying children and holding a flashlight are little things the Lord reveals as opportunities to add value. Reading one of Ed's books, while cops are writing reports or making phone calls, allows silent accompaniment . Listening, busy work and coffee / donuts are paths that prepare hearts for the Good News of God's unconditional love. A ten hour shift in the cruiser is an amazing mission field. Ed was right about the ride along.
I not only connect with cops, but the ride along is also a short cut to situational awareness. Ed's books, advice and a vest continue equipping me to use the Gospel to serve first responders at the intersection of faith and public health.