Lessons Learned

Read this featured blog post by Pastor Tony Rea

Lessons Learned


I Can (series)

Last week I told you about one of two Adam 12-like experiences I had during my 10 years on the DPD. Just to refresh your memory, during the age-old Adam 12 TV series, 1-Adam-12 had a knack of always being in the right place at the right time. It didn’t have much to do with luck or their stellar police skills, it had everything to do with the program script, LOL. Weren’t movies and TV series funny way back then?

Well on this occasion, it was late in the afternoon when I was on day shift—and I’m not sure I mentioned this before, but at the precinct level, most uniformed officers were on what we called the MAD rotation. We worked a month each of midnight's, afternoons, and then days. (Get it? M-A-D.) Then we started the same rotation over again. I was on days that month, and toward the end of shift, probably right around 3PM, a BOLO (be on the lookout) was broadcast for a late model Ford Mustang, brown in color, driven by a lone white male in his 30's. The vehicle was wanted in a robbery armed (RA) that just took place in our patrol area. Following the description, the dispatcher repeated the well-known phrase: “Use caution, the suspect is presumed to be armed and dangerous.”

This is the absolute truth, not 30 seconds after the BOLO, we spotted the car. (Spirit of Adam 12 for the second time.) The Mustang was moving south on Cass near Seldon in what was known as the infamous Cass Corridor—a high crime area. We pulled the vehicle over, and I hurried to the driver-side door. My partner went to the passenger side. With gun drawn and aimed directly on the driver, the only occupant in the car, I told him in a rather strong voice to put his hands where I could see them and step out of the vehicle. He opened the car door and turned toward me, and that’s when I saw a revolver in his right hand. I had purposely positioned myself behind the driver which forced him to reveal the gun before he could point it in my direction—a textbook stop. 

When I saw the gun, I ordered him to drop it; in that split second, I felt my finger pressing down on the trigger of my .357 Magnum, and I actually saw the hammer moving back. (In my mind’s eye, I can still watch it happening in slow motion right now.) At the last possible second, the driver of the Mustang threw the gun to the floorboard and raised both hands. I removed my finger from the trigger and placed the man under arrest without incident.  

After the booking process and once my adrenaline had a chance to return to a somewhat normal level, I realized I came extremely close to shooting a man and maybe even killing him; and I was very thankful I didn’t have to pull the trigger.  

Every day on my way to work, I prayed for protection, wisdom, and favor. I asked the Lord to help me do my job and keep people safe without the use of deadly force. And yes, I understood my responsibility to my police partners and the citizens I pledged to protect; I was fully prepared to discharge my weapon when warranted. However, regardless of how legitimate a shooting situation might be, I was prayerfully hoping to sidestep bloodshed. God answered that prayer. 

Now whenever I tell this story, and the reason I do is because when people find out I used to be a cop, the first question they usually ask is, “Did you ever shoot anyone?”

I say, “No, but I came pretty close.” I tell them about the Mustang driver; but then I also tell them another story that happened five or six years prior to that one. A man with a 9mm semi-automatic weapon opened fire on me. When that happened, since it was my first man-with-a-gun experience, I pretty much freaked out and emptied a shotgun at him. Can you blame me? I missed the shooter but killed a refrigerator (old news). 

It was that first incident (the 9mm episode) that prepared me for this one. If I had not been in a shooting situation before encountering the man in the Mustang, I’m almost certain I would have pulled the trigger—maybe even killed a radiator this time around, LOL. And please don’t get me wrong, it would have been a justifiable shooting in anyone’s book. However, on this second occasion, I was calm and didn’t overreact. As a result, we were able to secure a very dangerous arrest without harm or injury. I firmly believe I was a little more composed because… wait for it now… past experience became my teacher.  

Past experience became my teacher. Wow! What a concept! Think about that for a few seconds.

Oftentimes people use the words wisdom and knowledge interchangeably, as if they mean the same thing. They do not. Knowledge is information acquired or learned through education and experience. Wisdom is the application of the knowledge gained.  

Proverbs 4:7 (NKJV) tells us:

Wisdom is the principal thing; 

Therefore, get wisdom.

And in all your getting, get understanding. 

Why did Solomon say that? Why did he say, “Wisdom is the principal thing?” Because wisdom… it’s what’s most important, it’s essential and paramount. Knowledge is good; wisdom is better. Wisdom is allowing past experience to become your teacher. You know, not making the same mistakes over and over again. 

Here’s a little homework assignment for those of you who are up for it. Think about the time(s) in your life when you may have overreacted, responded irrationally or impatiently, or maybe even a little recklessly. Then answer the question: Has past experience been your teacher? Just sayin…