Pastor Steve served as a police officer on the Greensboro Police Department from 1986-1997. This article is from Steve's personal reflections and opinions, and does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the present day Department.
What does a police officer do to keep busy at two in the morning on a weekday? In an effort to keep the thin blue line secure I will refrain from telling you everything, but I can assure you there is always something to do, to avoid nodding off to sleep behind the wheel.
It was the winter of 1989 and I had been a Greensboro NC police officer for almost two years. I was assigned to the west side of town and had just left a coffee break near interstate 40 and West Wendover Avenue. It was a great place to work at night and there were a variety of things to do such as work traffic, and check buildings. Our primary duty was to answer our calls for police service, but this night had been rather quiet. Too quiet. (I always wanted to use that line in an article. Now my writing career is complete.)
I was caught up on all my accident, and investigative reports, and quite frankly, my eyelids were getting heavy at two in the morning and I needed something to stimulate my curiosity. I already had the window rolled down in the cold weather, and I was afraid to play the car radio too much louder out of fear of not hearing my police radio. As I rode east then west on Wendover Avenue near the postal bulk mail center, a west bound dark colored older model two door Chevy Monte Carlo with a burned out headlight caught my eye. There were two teen looking boys in the car, and their eyes got as big as saucers when they passed me. Something just didn't seem right about them although the only offense I had was improper equipment for the burned out headlight. Having nothing else on my plate at that moment I chose to investigate a little further. I turned around, got behind the Monte Carlo, and picked up my radio microphone to call in a traffic stop. I had no way to know what I was on the brink of encountering all because of my curiosity.
I activated my blue-lights as I called in the description, and tag number to communications. It appeared we were going to be pulling off into a small driveway directly in front of the postal bulk mail center. It was a rather odd place to stop because the driver of the Monte Carlo had no place to exit or pull away with my police car directly behind him. Maybe he was not up to anything so there was no need for him to make a way of escape. Whatever the driver's mindset may have been, I could not simply assume the best because I had to keep my guard up, and I was still very ill-at-ease about this particular traffic stop.
I stepped out of my police car and carefully surveyed the movements and gestures of driver and passenger trying to see where their hands were resting. They didn't appear to be scrambling or overly figiting, which was good. I approached the drivers window with the utmost caution trying not to focus on either the driver or passenger too long. I had to be alert. I can honestly say at this point that any concern I had over staying awake was long gone.
I stayed back from the driver's window which forced him to look over his left shoulder just to see me. My flashlight was partially blinding him from getting a good look at me which gave me a small safe advantage if he was armed. He already had his driver's license ready and I told him I was stopping him for the burned out headlight. The driver didn't appear terribly nervous, but the passenger seemed very concerned.He seemed even more concerned when I recognized him. I had been his school bus driver years earlier! Still, I did not see the connections to anything criminal yet.
I was examining the driver's license and noticed the driver had not given me the registration to the car he was driving. I sometimes let this one go because I can run the license tag, but this time I asked the driver to give it to me. He reached for the glove box and as a precaution I slowly moved my right hand to the handle of my Berretta 92 pistol which was currently in my safety-holster at my side. When the driver opened the glovebox several twelve-gauge shotgun shells fell out onto the passenger floorboard!
At this point I started feeling the adrenaline beginning to pump, and asked the driver to exit the vehicle and stand with me. I also asked him if he minded if I searched his car, and remarkably his only response was, "yes". I called for an assist car and advised my communications person why. They rushed a car my way as I patted both driver and passenger down for weapons that may do me harm. Both were clean.
I directed the driver and passenger to stand in front of their car as I shined my light into it. The first thing that caught my eye was two ski-masks with eyeholes cut out, and two pairs of black gloves. I then noticed something that sent me over the edge of my red-alert mode.
I shined my light on the driver's floorboard and noticed the wooden handle of something under the seat. I pulled the handle out and it was attached to a sawed-off loaded twelve gauge shotgun. I immediately placed the driver under arrest as my assist car arrived and motioned for my assist car to detain the passenger. By this time my adrenaline was in full pump and I had lost a partial bit of my hearing and had a low hum in both of my ears.
What I wasn't aware of at the moment was that the tactical police squad had been staked out at the Wilco gas station on Wendover avenue less than a quarter of a mile from where I stopped these teenagers. The tact squad was staked out after getting a tip that the Wilco was going to be robbed. I had unknowingly stopped the very suspects who were moments away from committing armed robbery at a convenience mart!I would like to say that the tactical police squad was appreciative of my diligence, but that would not be true. I cut in on their effort that night and took quite a bit of excitement away from their quiet evening.
Keeping Alert as a Christian
You may ask what this has to do with our lives as Christians, and maybe some of you have already used the illustration in an applicable way. We each have a duty before God to stay alert, sober, and diligent to the schemes and plotting of Satan in our lives. Satan wants you to fall, and ultimately wants you to fail, but we must be ever-mindful of his cunning and conniving tactics. Just as I recognized the passenger in that car on that night, we fight and war with an enemy we know and are familiar with.
Peter warns us that Satan is just waiting for us to drop our guard and expose our weaknesses. "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8)
The night I encountered this situation I was tired and fatigued from a very long night, but I didn't have the luxury of dropping my guard. As a believer in Jesus Christ you will find that Satan has your whole lifetime to wait for you to relax or drop your guard. He looks for those moments in your life where you don't study the Bible or pray. He watches to find your weakness or weaknesses because he will not relent or ease up. Satan and his helpers are the most interested in finding where you will succumb to his attacks, and he doesn't have to look that hard with many of us. Many Christians are immoral and willing participants to his schemes.
Satan needs no enhanced interrogation techniques to break you, all he needs is to observe and wait for his moment because he knows it will come.
Know Your Weakness and Confront it!
The night I encountered this situation my biggest enemy was fatigue. I could have easily ignored the car I stopped and done nothing, but it may have placed some of my brothers in blue in harms way even more than I. As Christians you must stay active and alert to your weaknesses and never give into complacency.
The Bible teaches us how to be ready in Ephesians 6:10-18 where Paul teaches us step-by-step how to be prepared for Satan's attacks.
Always be ready and alert because even the most "spiritual" person you know can become weak if they become slack or tired. Always be prepared to take defensive measures in your everyday activities. If you are prone to inappropriate relationships then take measures to cease what makes you fall. If you are an addict then seek out the right Biblical help and get accountability in your life. This list could go on, but we must not give in or give up!