Grace Under Pressure: Guns, Cops, A Baby And Doing The Right Thing

By Mark Esposito, Weekend Blogger

Author’s Note: Grace Under Pressure is an ongoing series of posts honoring everyday people who courageously make positive differences in their own lives and consequently in the lives of others. It is my own personal affirmation that unexpected heroes live among us and that their service is quiet but unshakable proof that virtue really is its own reward  – and ours, too. You can read all of the Grace Under Pressure series by going to the blog search box and typing in the word “grace.” 

Rachel Kohnen was afraid her baby would be born in the car.
Rachel Kohnen was afraid her baby would be born in the car.

The contractions were coming fast and furious when eight and a half-months-pregnant, Rachel Kohnen, summoned her husband to get the SUV started at around 4:00 a.m. on Tuesday.  No novice to child-birth or false labor – Rachel has three kids already — she told him the pain was very different. It felt like the baby was coming and now was “go time.” True to his uxorious duties, husband Ben revved up the engine and the couple sped along an Iowa highway towards a hospital always too far away when you need one.  As speeds approached 85 miles per hour, the vehicle attracted the attention of the  Ft. Dodge (IA)  highway patrol. Rachel tried to call 911 to explain her situation as her husband managed to keep the SUV between the white lines but the dispatcher couldn’t understand the frantic words because of the incessant shouts from waves of pain.

“Keep going,” Rachel implored as the cruiser lights flashed. The SUV kept going and so did the Manson County police officer. “He starts following me and he turns on his lights an my wife says we can’t pull over. The baby is coming now,” Ben would later tell a local TV station. A call for back  up was heeded and officers on the road  ahead of Ben’s vehicle set up a spike strip which disabled the SUV’s tires.

Guns were drawn and the cops cautiously approached the now stopped make-shift ambulance.  Held at gunpoint, the scene went from tense to dangerous. And in a departure from the horrific scenes of deadly police-citizen encounters we sometimes see in the media, an all-too-rare bout of common sense prevailed. Seeing the agony of Rachel, the officers holstered their weapons and gave her a police escort to the birthing room. Ten pound Baby Hazel was born an hour later and in good health.

“Normally when you get somebody clocked like that and they fail to pull over, the first thought in my mind is we’ve got somebody drunk or on drugs,” Manson Police Chief Tom Ritts said – and with good reason.What could have been a horror story as nervous cops met frenzied parents-to-be after a high-speed chase at 4:00 in the morning was averted by the oldest of  human rights protections — common sense and a compassionate heart. No crimes were charged except possibly a speeding ticket for Ben.

It’s worth remembering that cops face incredible challenges with incomplete information most of  the time. Who hasn’t shuddered at the notion of  a cop stopping a speeding car on a cold, dark night and walking up to the window to find out what is going on.  And all for our safety. Cops over-react, get scared, do stupid things — like everybody else. And we should hold them accountable when they do because we arm them and ask them to act in our name. Just like we should praise restraint and compassion when it’s shown.

An old sheriff friend of my father used to say that “all police problems start out as people problems first.” He meant that people get sideways with the legal system for more reasons than just wanting to go do something that violates the law. Sometimes it’s unintentional or wrought by stupidity  and ignorance or compelled by the thoughtless acts of others. One size didn’t fit all in police work and uniformity wasn’t as important as trying to get it right.

That was a different time and different style of policing. Then, discretion meant throwing the books out  occasionally when, in the exercise of good judgment, no crime was intended and no harm done. People’s lives didn’t have to be ruined by one mistake or one bad decision.  It was imperfect and subjective and based a lot on knowing the person involved and not just the statute or ordinance broken. In short, it was anti-modern without the emphasis on empirical data and objectivity.

Sadly, the proliferation of violent crime has made cops and citizens more guarded and determined to follow the rules to the letter. Small town justice is derided as discriminatory or based on favoritism.  Relying on the good judgment of  the people you put into authority now seems passe’ when once it was de rigueur. Maybe that style of idealistic policing never existed except in the Mayberry of the old Andy Griffith Show but growing up in a small town, we sure thought it did.

Sometimes, in places like Iowa, maybe it still does.

Source:  Huffington Post

~Mark Esposito, Weekend Blogger

By the way and for better or worse, the views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not necessarily those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays of art are solely the author’s decision and responsibility. No infringement of intellectual property rights is intended and will be remedied upon notice from the owner. Fair use is however asserted for such inclusions of quotes, excerpts, photos, art, and the like.


43 thoughts on “Grace Under Pressure: Guns, Cops, A Baby And Doing The Right Thing”

  1. Haven’t read everything, but the bottom line that jumps out is that the Dad made a bad evaluation by listening to the pregnant mom. I know there is danger in each choice, but the good and safe choice was to take the 2 minutes necessary to explain the situation. (They ended up spending those two minutes anyway, maybe more like 5 or 10 and encountered way more risk than giving birth on the side of the road.) Really terrible decision making and there is way too much of that. If no one else condemned that aspect, then where are we really?

  2. Apologist nonsense. Cops will KILL YOU if you don’t stop to take a piece of paper (ticket). The ironic thing is that the action most likely to get a cop killed is getting struck by a car while standing in the road.

    Why not just mail the ticket to the registered owner? Isn’t the justification of registering a car and getting a license plate for the purpose of identifying the owner?

    Traffic laws are the most tyrannical scam ever to grace this country.


    Just observe the fight going on over robot cars. They will completely undermine the current insurance/traffic/search you car/license/registration scam. None of these will have a justification anymore.

  3. I believe the original article stated the wife was attempting to call 911 and they couldn’t hear her. Pulling over at first stop would be best. Don’t get out of the car! Roll down the window and yell “my wife is in labor” – any police out there agree this is safest way? Or what else?

  4. I got a call in the middle of the night from someone who thought he was having a heart attack. I was there in less than 5 minutes. It’s a rural area and we could be nearly to the hospital by the time an ambulance showed up. I drove him to the hospital but we called 911 to alert the hospital. 911 asked about symptoms and offered to have an ambulance meet us where we were. We declined. I drove just slightly above the speed limit and treated the red lights as flashing red. Since we were on the phone with 911, I was prepared to ask them to alert the cops to the situation if they showed up. They did not. Since traffic was light to non-existent at 3 or 4 am, sirens and flashing lights were unnecessary. If he had had a major attack, I’d have opted for an ambulance, whether he wanted one or not.

  5. Linda is likely correct about it being a rural area. The cops/sheriffs are usually less tense. The idea to call the paramedics from a hospital or medical clinic is worthy in a more urban area, however, in a rural area, such as where I live, the response time is generally very long, often an hour or more. You might as well drive yourself to the hospital. It would be quicker

    A 911 call might get you a volunteer fireman as a paramedic quicker. Probably one of your neighbors,maybe the rancher down the road. On the other hand, he has probably pulled a calf or two and could help with the 10 pound baby. 🙂

    It is good to read about a situation that turned out well. As pointed out it could have turned out badly. Cops are people in a very high stressful and dangerous job who have to make snap instant life and death decisions.

  6. Hey Buzzkill,
    It’s called recognizing in the real world citizens make irrational decisions and we expect trained law enforcement to use reason in dealing with them. This blog routinely exposes situations where the roles are reversed and it’s refreshing to read of one that worked as our social contract expects.

    I’m sure if you keep looking long enough though, you will be back to reading a story of epic failure and feel morally justified in pointing out the obvious.

  7. Calling the perimedics to do a home birth may have been the best idea. They have the resuscitation equipment and would be a fast ride in case something went wrong, or a nice relaxed ride to the hospital if all went right with mom and baby.

  8. Darren:

    Since they used a spike strip to take out the tires, I assume they had to transfer her to a police car to give her the escort. They could have crashed, plus they had the extra time to transfer. People spit and vomit in the back of a police car – not where I would want to be in labor. I agree pulling over right away would actually have been faster.

    But God bless the officers for rapidly changing gears and helping in her hour of need.

    1. Karen S.

      Police escorts are becoming a thing of the past, mainly due to liability issues if the escorted crashes. Police can transport those in medical need but then, of course, there is the liability issue that is becoming increasingly prevalent. I can agree with the first one but I have a bit of the issue of the second as being an absolute rule. Some rural areas do not have timely EMS services and one could do this but it is very rare that it should happen.

      As for what happens in the back of patrol cars in the last probably 10 years it has increasingly been the case where form fitted plastic seats are now installed into the back of cars. They wipe clean fairly easily.

  9. My recommendation would have been to call 911 before the cops showed showed up to alert the hospital that a birthing was on its way, then let 911 alert the cops when they showed up that it was a maternity run.

  10. If the cop pulls you over look at his or her name tag and if its Prissy then do not ask for assistance in the delivery.

  11. I don know nuth bout birthin babies but I would want the big belly one to be in the back seat of the car, with a big back seat, so that things could happen back there. Don’t pull into the Quik Trip on West Florissant in Ferguson to deliver. Protestors and window breakers will be in the way. Put a lighted up sign on t rear which says: Pregnant, delivering, and speeding. Don’t tailgate!

  12. Paul-your posting reminded me if the classic “Citizen’s Arrest” episode from the old “Andy Griffith Show”.

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