CLERGY CORNER: Dear Police: Thank You (Part 2)

Posted on 12 November 2015 by LeslieM

The whine of the Rolls Royce engine and oscillating whooshing sound from the four-bladed Bell 407 police helicopter hovering above echoed throughout the apartment complex’s hallways. Red and blue strobe lights danced upon the once dark and silent walls before gunfire had shattered the stillness of the evening.

Over here,” called a first responder. “Look closely,” he said while pointing toward the lower abdomen of an adult male sprawled upon the ground being worked on by paramedics.

You see these two small punctures?” said the first responder. “That’s where he was shot.” I had to almost squint; I’d never seen a shooting victim, nor had any clue what real gunshot wounds looked like. But there they were: what appeared to be two stab wounds by a No. 2 pencil.

Wasting little time, the victim was prepped for transport. A polite and calm paramedic looked over at me and said, “Wanna ride in the back with us to the hospital?” I needed to remain with the first responder I was shadowing for the evening, but I couldn’t help but notice the medic’s collected demeanor. For him, two bullets robbing a man of his pulse was simply another day on the job. He and the crew couldn’t let the reality of the situation distract them from their mission: saving lives.

I never learned the fate of the shooting victim, but I did become well-educated on the many other tragedies law enforcement personnel encounter during my many nights riding with the police, specifically drunk driving.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “In 2013, 10,076 people died in drunk driving crashes,” and another “290,000 were injured” because of intoxicated drivers. One DUI Task Force sheriff’s deputy told me that, statistically speaking, 1 in 4 drivers after 10 p.m. in Palm Beach County are driving impaired.

I recall one night, while heading east on Forest Hill Boulevard, the deputy I was riding with noticed a van ahead crossing the lane markings. We kept our distance monitoring the driver’s behavior—all being recorded by the dash cam. With enough probable cause to make a legal stop —suspicion of driving under the influence — the deputy switched on the trademark red and blue strobes. A quick yelp of the siren helped the van’s driver recognize he was our target, which caused him to pull off the road and stop just prior to the I-95 overpass.

Cautiously approaching the driver’s side, the deputy quickly realized his suspicion was accurate. Accompanying the driver was an aging prostitute — her skin wrinkled and leathery-looking, undoubtedly from years of smoking. While the moment was heartbreaking, I remember the wise advice of the seasoned DUI Task Force deputy, “No one gets to make a choice that could rob someone else’s right to live.”

And that’s where my deep sense of gratitude resides —knowing that each day, police officers and deputies make the exact opposite decision that drunk drivers and other criminals make. Police initiate numerous choices that often put themselves in harm’s way so that no one is robbed of their right to live. Christ says in John 15:13, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend”— the citizens, in their case. Without a doubt, those behind the badge embody the United States Coast Guard rescue swimmer motto: “So others may live.”

So, dear officer or deputy, thank you for putting on the uniform daily. For knowing you’ll be second-guessed, have your food sometimes [spit in], and be bullied by the talking heads on television and trolls on social media. For rushing into the situations everyone else is running from. For often being the face of humanity, sacrificially serving your community, while the poor choices of a few of your brothers and sisters allows for a complete vilification of your chosen profession. Thank you for choosing to go to a “normal day on the job,” which really means guys like me and my fellow citizens are able to rest peacefully knowing, because of you, we may live.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments he can be reached at

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