Sunday, May 10, 2020

Ride Along Reflections

Chaplain Ed gave me books, advice and a bulletproof vest before he retired.

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."
Stock photo
Bulletproof Vest
To "ride" means accompanying an officer on the road during a shift: in uniform, with the vest, applying book learning in the field.  Officers with lowest seniority are often assigned ride-alongs with the chaplain.  They're great teachers, open to conversation and curious about the chaplaincy.  I am learning about short cuts and situational awareness.

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.

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.

Paperback Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement : A Guide for Officer and Their Families Book
Book For Chaplaincy
I began riding on first shift (6 am - 4 pm) while our children were in school.  The sergeant in charge of the chaplaincy said, "Thank you for riding, Alex, but we need you to spread the love to every shift."  Rides expanded to second shift (3 pm - 1 am) and third shift (8:30 pm - 6:30 am) and I learned situational awareness.  Day or night, it's important to know where we are and how to communicate a location to other people. 

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.


  1. This is a perfect demonstration and answer to Paul's prayer to the Ephesians in chapter 3:14-20 - YOU strengthen the inner man, so that we will do immeasurably more than we can think or imagine to bring glory to God in the church. Thank you Bro Alex

    1. Deemacq, thank you for bringing our attention to Ephesians. May our work in obedience to Christ bring glory to God in the church. Blessed by your post.

  2. Chaplain, thanks for your interest in learning about policing and the officers that serve, thank you for commitment and spiritual support to the profession of policing!

    1. GreenD321,thank you for sending words of life. Christ sends disciples among nations of particular cultures, languages and histories. Law enforcement has a culture, language and history; law enforcement is a nation. Grateful to obey Matthew 28 among officers.

  3. Thank you Alex for sharing this insperational story with us. I notice that your writing is full of insperation, as well as insightful . thank you also for letting us see through a chaplins eyes, the duties you perform throughout the day. Be encouraged you are making a difference even by the small things you do in our triumphant LORD and savior Jesus Christ. So do not fear for he is with you even to the end.

    1. Thank you for posting words of life. If there is any inspiration in the writing, the Holy Spirit is the source. Writing about what we're doing in this season is a privilege. Learning of the impact on you is a blessing. Keep the faith.