Small town courage
A few mornings ago, a traffic stop was executed on I-85 South near mile marker 35. The car was clocked at doing 101 miles per hour in a 70.
The driver, age 22, did not have a driver’s license and was arrested for speeding, reckless driving, and driving without a license. After the man was booked into the Coweta County jail, the police learned that the Saturn the man was driving was stolen. He was also wanted for the kidnapping and stabbing of a 23-year-old woman.
The woman, who had been thrown into the trunk of the car, somehow managed to escape, and jumped from the moving car. In addition to her stab wounds, she suffered a head injury in the escape, but managed to call police. What would have happened if she had not escaped? Fortunately, no one will ever have to find out.
The officer who made the arrest was a member of the Grantville, Ga., police department. Grantville is a small hamlet, just over 3,000 in population, located in southern Coweta County near I-85. The department is small, is served by several full-time officers, and is supplemented by reserve officers who volunteer 16 hours a month.
Much of the time, officers in smaller departments work alone. When the Grantville officer pulled over the speeder, on a busy interstate highway, he had no idea that the driver was wanted for a violent and heinous crime. The most dangerous moment for a police officer occurs in just such a setting. A routine traffic stop may turn out to be routine. Or it may also turn deadly.
As a police chaplain with nearly 25 years experience, I never fail to be amazed by the courage and dedication shown by law enforcement officers day in and day out. When I went through the police academy in Fulton County in 1992, I learned that a successful shift ends with the officer going home to his family.
What that means, of course, is that each day — each traffic stop, each building check, each domestic call — carries within it the explosive possibility of violence, injury, or death. Yet, day after day, the men and women of law enforcement face the challenge head on.
They are not appreciated, of course, and they know it. That, too, takes a toll. Many citizens are polite and contrite when encountered by cops, but a sizable number are rude, insulting, combative, and aggressive. These are the folks who challenge the police officer to “go chase real criminals” and are the folks who loudly proclaim that there are “too many cops” on the road.
Still, the average citizen has no idea what a cop faces day after day and most would not have the grit and courage to do what they do.
In the movies and on TV, it is the big city cop or the feds who face danger and take down the bad guys of society. They are the ones who are portrayed as facing dangers and criminals. The small-town cop is often laughed at and dismissed as a “Sheriff Andy” or as a “Barney Fife.”
But as the arrest on I-85 indicates, bad men are to be found everywhere. As are good, dedicated, courageous cops. And, they are every bit as brave and valuable as officers in larger departments.
Thus it was on a Saturday morning, when most people were sleeping in or having breakfast, that Sgt. Bill Baker, of the Grantville Police Department, put himself at risk and removed an alleged violent lawbreaker from the streets of Coweta County.
I don’t know if everyone will appreciate him or officers like him — but I bet the young woman who escaped from the trunk of the car does.
[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, Sharpsburg, GA (www.ctkcec.org). He is the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese which consists of Georgia and Tennessee (www.midsouthdiocese.org) and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]