When a police officer suits up, carefully checking and rechecking his or her gear, they begin the mental process that is necessary to separate the normalcy associated with home life from the uncertainty of the next 8 or so hours. The officer began prioritizing his day before he slid behind the wheel and announced his availability to the communication’s officers behind the consoles in the dispatch center. The officer likely has a number of pending issues to deal with and looks forward to those magic minutes when he is not committed to some pre-existing activity. In today’s police environment, particularly in view of the enormous number of extraneous responsibilities that have proliferated over the last decade or so, the officer will have little time to enjoy the freedom to pick his or her enforcement activity, time that is set aside for what we call “self initiated activity”. Although the officer is alone, he is influenced by his two constant counsels, the devil and the Lord. A fine line separates the approach the officer takes as he deals with the routine and the chaotic….and both counsels have their place. Let me explain.
Early in my career, I was enjoying the evening news at home, sitting on the floor in my rather spartan living room enjoying the antics of a daughter who was intent on distracting me from the happenings of the day, when a middle aged lady began pounding on my front door. I opened the door and was greeted by a neighbor who announced that her mother had fallen ill and needed assistance immediately. No, the lady said, an ambulance had not been called, and I arranged for this to happen as I slipped on shoes and followed the lady to her house. I was led into her mother’s bedroom and found mom lying crossways on her bed, obviously very dead. Understandably, the family was frantic and I needed to do something in an effort to lend dignity to this dramatic situation and I eased mom onto the floor and began CPR, although it was very obvious that mom had been gone for some time….likely an hour or more. My efforts reflected God driven compassion, all the while the devil was suggesting that I announce that mom was well past resuscitation, call the coroner and clear the room. The family was tremendously grateful for my efforts, and the moment was saved. Score one for the Lord.
On another occasion, while assigned to the Republican National Convention in Kansas City, I found myself in a police line comprised of troopers and police officers arranged in an alternating fashion. We were confronting a rather large group of protestors who likely had no idea what, exactly, they were protesting. They were, as protestors are likely to be, obnoxious and hell bent on provoking an incident with us. The devil was working overtime in his efforts to provide a response that would not be in our best interest when a street savvy police sergeant came up with a solution that would thin the ranks of the protestors, who were at their best when their numbers were many. A row of porti-potties had been set up for the convenience of the protestors (the Lord) some distance behind their masses. The officer slipped into the portable toilets and applied a generous dose of chemical mace to each roll of tissue before returning to the ranks of officers. The result was rather spectacular as the evening wore on, with any number of protestors, having used the toilets, exiting the plastic torture chambers on fire, with little interest in continuing their activities at the protest. The devil was smiling broadly. Unfortunately, the anatomical differences between men and women resulted in a far greater percentage of ladies abandoning the protest ahead of the men. Score one for the devil.
The Lord, I believe, counsels patience when patience can be effective. Today’s officer is trained in various techniques, such as “verbal judo” whereby confrontations are minimized through persuasion and verbal de-escalation. This is all good stuff, but was not prevalent in the bag of tricks employed by my generation and those before me. When a confrontation simply cannot be resolved through verbal means, the devil steps in and folks get hurt. On occasion, police work is neither glamorous or palatable such as in the cultivation of an informant that is a prostitute or thief. The use of body cams and and microphones have a chilling effect on the necessary conversations between officers and the folks who really know who the players are on the street. It is the Lord who provides real time guidance when you are notifying the next of kin, and the devil who guides you in a profanity laced conversation with a prostitute who is providing information on the local drug dealer. It is the devil who provides the useful skill of being able to convincingly lie, within the parameters of the law, when questioning a suspect in an effort to accomplish some investigative goal. It is the Lord who guides you as you assure the person pinned in a mangled car that he is going to be alright, when you know that his life is ebbing away as you helplessly watch.
So it is, the devil and the Lord are both useful and persuasive in this line of work. The successful officer relies on both for the countenance to do his or her job, but is careful to not cross the fine line that separates them. That same officer also leaves the devil at the door when he returns home at the end of his shift.
The devil and the Lord…….both necessary.