Lions and Sheepdogs

Posted on LEOS

We all know there are rogue cops, lazy cops, incompetent and uncaring cops, and other undesirables in uniform. We’ve all come in contact with one or more of those kinds of cops. But we’re not going to talk about them today. We’re going to talk about the other kind of cops, whether city Police, State Troopers, Sheriff’s Deputies, or Fish and Game officers.

These are the men and women who, when they respond to your call, make the bad guys cringe and make you SMILE, because you know that Justice. Has. Arrived. The Blue Knight. The Lone Ranger. The Wrath Of God with a badge and gun.

“Leo” used to be a synonym for “lion”, and there are times in every cop’s life when he has to be as brave as a lion, hence the word “Lions” in the title. Massad Ayoob, long-time police officer, lethal force instructor, and author, describes cops as “sheepdogs” who have what it takes to protect the sheep from the wolves. Hence “Sheepdogs” in the title.

Today’s LEO is very thoroughly trained. When I was a reserve officer, if an officer recommended that you be given a badge and the chief liked the way you looked, you put your hand on the Bible, swore the oath, strapped on your .38 and went forth to do battle with the forces of evil.

That was a stupid way to do things. It did not prepare you for the street.

There was a night when I came close to shooting a man whose only “crime” was that he was an idiot. One Saturday night, my partner and I stopped a Mustang that was weaving out of its lane slightly. I approached on the passenger side, and my cheap hardware-store flashlight failed. Just as it did, the driver’s right hand went down between the bucket seats.

I distinctly remember that every motion and thought happened so fast, so lightning-fast! I realized that if the driver came up with anything in his hand that might possibly be a gun, I had to shoot him, because if I waited to make sure, and it was a gun, he’d kill my partner. My brain split in two. I could literally hear one half shouting, “SHOOT!SHOOT!SHOOT!” and the other half shouting “NO!NO!NO!” Even as the shouting inside was going on, I already knew what I had to do and started to draw.

In the split second that process went on, the driver’s hand never paused. He slid it down between the seats, brought his empty hand back up and grasped the steering wheel with it. And my gun was on its way. And I managed to stop.

I estimate that the entire sequence I just described, from the driver’s hand going between the bucket seats to me stopping my draw, took about one half of a second. The human mind and body aren’t supposed to be able to work that fast, but mine did that night.

My partner questioned the driver and determined that he was just a little tired and careless. He cautioned him and let him go. I was still shaking slightly when we arrived at the station a few minutes later.

No one had ever told me that I might have to kill an innocent man just because he did something stupid at the wrong time. That’s the kind of event that good training prepares you for, at least mentally. I don’t know if anything can prepare you for it emotionally.

These days there are electronic shoot / don’t shoot training tools that make you understand mentally, at least, that this kind of thing can and does happen. And this is the reason that we should respond carefully to police who question us. You may think, “I’m just an old man / woman! I don’t even look like a criminal! He’s harassing me!” He may be. But the officer knows that little old ladies, and old geezers, and sweet teenage girls, have murdered police officers. And he intends to go home alive at the end of his shift. So if you think an officer is being unreasonable with you, do not choose that moment to voice your opinion, or at least voice it in a calm manner, with respect, or the situation might abruptly deteriorate.

There’s a Dilbert cartoon in which Dilbert gets smart with a police officer who pulled him over. The officer calmly replies, “Please step out of the car for the sobriety test.” In the next frame a badly disheveled Dilbert in his home explains to Catbert, “So it turns out the sobriety test involves flinging yourself down an embankment …”

In the last ten or so years, one of the ugly changes that has come over this nation is that evil scum have been encouraged and incited to kill police officers, even by our own politicians. Murder them in the coldest of blood. Scum have openly chanted evil chants about police officers, and have been allowed to get away with it. This angers me. It also angers me that a proper police response to criminals has largely been de-clawed by political correctness, which in fact is nothing more than code for “criminals in power here”. IMO, anyway.

But sometimes Justice finds a way. Heh heh heh. At one site I worked, there was a federal presence on site, so a DHS officer was assigned to come by periodically and evaluate site security. We talked a good bit, became friendly, and when one multiple felon kept giving me trouble, I mentioned his name to the DHS officer. He never mentioned the matter again, but the multiple felon never returned. :E And I asked no questions. 🙂

Police officers – if they are doing their job with honor – have the authority of God Himself backing them: “Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not wear a sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13:3-5)

There’s an old documentary, “The Minnesota Connection”, in which the author, Al Palmquist, a cop, has been wavering between remaining a cop and becoming a minister. In the King James Version, that Scripture says that the “ruler” is a “minister of God”. So Al Palmquist stayed a cop, and Minneapolis was the better for it.

Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) have done the same thing our military has done: they have written a blank check payable to America for a price of up to and including their lives. They don’t see combat as fierce as warfare, but their lives are at risk every day they put on that uniform.

Within the sheepdog breed there exists a “subspecies” who are lions for sure. These are the men, and a few women, who would feel comfortable rubbing shoulders with David’s “mighty men”. Warriors on a civilian battlefield, they embrace their calling with enthusiasm. I recall with laughter one such officer who told me with a scary grin, “I like to get it on with the bad guys!”

Looking at the barrel chest and muscular arms of that officer, I couldn’t help grinning. He was a bad guys’ nightmare.

An officer told me about a bad guy who, when arrested, told the officer, “I wasn’t tryin’ to kill you. [He shot at the officer.] Just wanted to scare you off.”

The officer, an ex-Marine with combat tours under his belt, replied, “I was trying to kill you.”

There was a night when, as a security guard, I had a disagreement with a bad guy. He tried to provoke me into a fight, and I called 911. (He was a good deal younger and stronger than I was, and a little bigger.) Three others standing nearby started heckling me and closing in. I was already talking to 911 dispatch, so I added, “He has three friends who want to join in.”

When the bad guys heard those words they ALL scattered in an instant. They knew what was coming. Sure enough, in 30 seconds the first two cruisers jerked to a halt beside me. Two more arrived in the next 30 seconds. Granted, this was a small urban area, and a special event that night had the police out in full force. Still, that was impressive! And the bad guys knew it was coming.

That’s the “romantic” view of police work. What’s the rest of the story? You may have heard the saying that police work is 99% boredom and 1% pure terror. In many cities, it’s more like 99% high stress and 1% terror. Police tours are full of routine most nights, but any night can reveal an unexpected live horror show. Most calls are low-risk, get-the-kitty-out-of-the-tree or find out where this senile old fellow lives and get him home. But many are domestic calls, and those are always distressing and have a high potential for deadly danger. And many are medical emergency calls. Some are elder abuse calls, child abuse, armed robberies, burglaries .. you name it. A patrol shift is like rolling the dice for eight or more hours straight. With, maybe, your life as the stake.

Sometimes officers arrive at a scene where they see things right out of a horror movie. Things they can’t forget. Don’t tell their spouses. Scenes from hell that are like acid in their souls. Those sights have an effect. I recall a pastor telling me that in his long service as a pastor, he had only known one police officer who was able to avoid divorce.

More common even than nightmare scenes these days are things like stupid kid-glove requirements for dealing with bad guys. Where fifty or more years ago, a solid nightstick taught respect to the disrespectful, now officers are supposed to SHOW respect for the bad guys. Granted, police work does not compare to the stress of warfare. But it has its unique stresses:

Possible Sources of Psychological Stress
¬ Within the organization characteristics: lack of supervision, lack of positive reward, restrictive policies, excessive paperwork, poor equipment.
¬ Criminal Justice practices: unfavorable court decisions, recidivism, court delays and continuances, adversarial nature of the justice system.
¬ Public practices: distorted press accounts of police work, allegations of brutality and racism, adverse local government decisions such as funding.
¬ Police work itself: role conflict (e.g. apprehension of criminals while needing to maintain their rights), irregular work schedule, danger inherent in the profession, inability to resolve and close many problems in the community, witnessing human suffering, seriousness of the consequences of ones actions, critical incidents such as shootings or mass disasters, cumulative nature of stress.”

Different and somewhat lesser stresses than war, but stress nonetheless.

There’s laughter too. When you live with horror or the potential for horror every day, you find humor wherever you can.

As you read the following, keep in mind that the events described took place in a small North Carolina town 45+ years ago. Things were different then. Life was more light-hearted, at least in my area. NYC, Detroit, LA … different worlds, even in that time.

I recall one night as a reserve officer when a break-in to a business in a small town at shift change had the entire two shifts at the scene. All eight of us. Whoopee. We were bored, and we needed to see what we could of modus operandi, what was stolen, etc. etc.

The dispatcher that night either panicked or decided to give us a little light entertainment. We’d been having a problem with an elusive peeping tom, and that night a citizen called in to report him at his home.

The dispatcher gave the call out as a 10-33: an all-stops-out emergency call. For some reason, most of us piled into the same cruiser. As we slid through square corners in four-wheel drifts, lights flashing and siren screaming, one officer with a fear of speed yelled, “G__-d___ it, Billy, slow down! You’ll kill us all!” He continued his terrified yelling all the way to the citizen’s home. By the time we got there, we were useless. The cruiser doors opened to spill out five cops lurching about in helpless laughter, and one officer who leaned on the cruiser, bent over, afraid he was going to lose his dinner. If he should read this, I am certain he will remember that night.  :E  Needless to say, the peeping tom was long gone.

(Names have been changed to protect the guilty. :E )

Then there was the night an inebriated woman called the station to report some annoying neighbor she wanted arrested, without legal cause. When responding officers told her they had no cause to arrest the nuisance, she cussed them out and sicced her Chihuahau on them. Over the radio we could hear her screeching and the frantic barking of a small dog as a breathless officer jumped into his cruiser and reported angrily, “Dispatch, don’t send any more officers to that house tonight! That woman sicced her dog on me! Complainant’s exact words were, ‘Kill, Ralph! Kill!‘ ”

Over more than twenty years of security work, my experiences with LEOs have been almost 100% good. Over more than ten years of calling them as a citizen in a decaying neighborhood, almost 100% positive. There are days when I wonder how long this can continue, as I watch the corruption in government and the hostility toward police continuously growing. But while we have this much, let us be deeply grateful to God for these Lions and Sheepdogs who wear human faces and have human hearts.

This one won’t destroy you, but it will bring tears…

God bless all those who serve and protect, those who wear the uniform here at home, and those who wear combat boots. We are so very grateful.

Have a blessed and safe Red Friday all.

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