About six weeks ago I officially became a chaplain for the West St. Paul and Mendota Heights police departments. Pastor Wick suggested I join him and five other local ministers as a police chaplain, and I gladly obliged.
Police chaplains in these jurisdictions basically do whatever they can to help the officers, with their primary duty being death notifications and counseling people who have experienced the loss of a loved one. In other words, if there's a fatal car accident, or if the police are called to a scene where a death has occurred, they will call the chaplain on duty and he or she will come to the scene to help out in any way they can. Usually this just means being present for the people involved, thereby freeing up the officers to get back to their jobs. From what I hear, there are three or four "call-outs" every quarter or so. I have yet to be called.
A secondary duty of the chaplains is to get to know and support the West St. Paul and Mendota Heights police officers. One of the best ways to do this is to go on ride alongs, or in other words, hang out with an officer while he's on duty in his squad car. I got a chance to do this yesterday. It was my first such ride along, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, and enjoyed my time with Officer Todd Rosse.
Truth be told, I was a little nervous leading up to the ride along. I had never been in a police car before, plus I wasn't quite sure what to expect. What would I do if we got into a "situation?" I guess it would be a trial by fire kind of experience. It turns out my trepidation was uncalled for, as Officer Rosse basically just drove me around his jurisdiction and told me about himself, and what it's like to be a cop.
There were a few times where my heart started beating a bit faster, though. One time we were driving through a pretty crowded parking lot, and there was a unseemly character staring down the squad car pretty intensely. "Looks like that guy is eyeballing me," Officer Rosse said. He quickly ran the plate of the car, and the computer came back saying it belonged to a female whose license was suspended. But because it was a man in the vehicle, and no female was present, we didn't make a stop. Plus, I guess simple knowledge of a suspended license isn't enough to stop someone. There needs to be some kind of infraction.
Another time we were driving down a road and the dash-mounted radar gun pegged the oncoming vehicle as being 15 miles per hour over the speed limit. Officer Rosse quickly made a U-turn and floored it. But we were too late. By the time we reached the top of the next hill, the car was gone, presumably having turned to the right or the left before it was back in our field of vision. Needless to say, I had some adrenaline pumping!
The only other item of interest from the ride along came toward the end of the night, as we observed what appeared to be some teenagers sneaking around a building. We went around the block and pulled up slowly to try and see them. Turns out they were sneaking up on some friends with water guns. No harm done.
All in all, it was a great experience, and I look forward to my next ride along, and to whatever ways I can serve these great people in our police departments.