Friday, July 30, 2010



Recently, a deputy I was riding with responded to a suicide in the community. I ended up manning the tape barrier, separating the warring sides of the family. For three and a half hours I listened to wild accusations from the front lawn and wails of anguish from inside. After the coroner sanitized the situation, I prayed over the deceased with the family.
This is what I call a “normal” night. I don’t mean to appear callous when I say I went home and right to sleep. It was sad and pointless, yes, but something I’ve had enough experience with to handle, as a Pastor and a Chaplain.
However, I did have another day that challenged my commitment as a Chaplain. One event shook me beyond expectation. It may seem much more trivial than suicide, but that’s my point. An event that challenges one might go unnoticed by another.
Deputy S. and I caught the tag for a robbery. A twelve year old girl had tried to rob a nine year old boy for shopping money. Watching the cuffs placed on that little girl and locking her in the back seat was hard for me. As Deputy S. administered the Gladys R. competency test, he asked, “Where did you learn to do this?”
“My brother,” she answered.
At the station, the Watch Commander ordered Deputy S. to keep her out of lock-up. “...and no way am I sending this kid to Juvie tonight. Call her parents to come get her.”
While the Deputy attempted to contact the parents, I spoke with the girl in the report room. She sat handcuffed, crying in this bad, scary place. Good, I thought, she needs to be scared. “Remember this, I said. “You never want to come here again.”
Meanwhile, Deputy S. got the father on the phone. But Daddy didn't want to come to the station because he had outstanding warrants. Deputy S. said, “Sir, I will write you new warrants, come get your little girl.”
He did come to the station; FOUR HOURS LATER. By this time, the girl seemed no-longer scared. She was bored; which was infinitely worse.
The hard thing, the thing that challenged my commitment, was despair. Twelve years old, I thought. She has a brother who’s taught her to steal and a father with warrants for God-knows-what. She has no chance to make it in society. Why am I spending my time for people like this? I should go back to my cozy, suburban congregation and stay there.
Later that night, in conversation with a new deputy, I heard, “We should just lock them all up. We’re getting nowhere.” He was dealing with the same flood of despair as the Chaplain. Hmm... I found this hard, the deputies struggled with it, and my wife, a teacher, expressed the same frustrations, when I told her about it.
So what are we supposed to do? How do we escape the torrent of desperation?
First, I think frustration is not a sign of weakness. The fact that these events bother one shows there's still hope. Second, I know of two people who by God's grace escaped similar situations. One grew up in South Central, in the exact same circumstances. She's now serving a church in the Valley. The other case is a seminary buddy who worked with inner city kids in San Francisco. One boy in particular caused my friend to despair. Years later, my friend returned to find this problem child leading the youth ministry.
At times, the battle may seem lost, but that's not completely true. There are way more decent people out there than otherwise. Even people who appear hopeless may find hope. If you deputies don't do this often thankless job, who will?

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. ” 2 Corinthians 4:9



After three years as a Sheriff volunteer, I have come to some conclusions. Hollywood and the general public seem to view law enforcement as some secret, clannish cult. Oh, sure, procedures and nomenclature are unfathomable to the uninitiated, but the same is true of my specialty: theology. To the contrary, I have found the LE community to be ruled by honesty and practicality. That’s why I can say, everything I need to know I learned from deputies.

Keep Your Hands in Plain Sight

Hands can be trouble, that’s why deputies always watch them. A dark vehicle and hidden hands shout possible danger. Keeping our hands in plain sight is a good metaphor for life. Life’s relationships are best founded on honesty and openness.

Show Me Some ID
We all carry identification, whether it’s a card in my wallet, or the badge on your chest. In the field, establishing identity is primary to officer safety. These days, it’s not enough to wave a card or badge, for false identity is a growing problem. In life, it’s important not just to proclaim an identity, but to be who we say we are. Navigating life’s choices gets much easier when we are true to ourselves.

Put On Your Game Face
Teachers have an aphorism: don’t smile before Thanksgiving. Like deputies, they know the importance of command presence. Without it, a classroom quickly degenerates into chaos. Inside the station, deputies can rival the highest paid comedians. Once in the field, however, deputies put on the game face. Public safety and confidence demand your command of every situation. Fun is fun and some situations call for a touch of humor to deal with the tension. Conversely, there are times where firm, no-nonsense, determination is the appropriate response to the problem.

Why Am I Here?
This is not a philosophical question with deputies; they make it a commandingly factual one. Deputies often deal with chaotic situations. I’ve heard rambling, pointless narrations with little relevance to the situation. At those times, deputies always ask something like: “Why am I here? What do you expect me to do?” I’ve picked up on this, and ask myself the same question when confronted with confusion in my own life.

Proverbs 3:21-24 says, “My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble; when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” Life can be tricky. Thankfully, there are simple, honest, guidelines out there that can help us find our way.

Monday, July 19, 2010


If you are reading my blog, I invite you to check out the lists on the right for "Don's Favorites." These are posts I think of as significant thinking, not just snide humor. The humor is a very real side of me. My favorite posts show that I am capable of actual thought.