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.”
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
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