Although I’ve experienced a night time ride along with my son, Nate, who is a police officer in Carthage, I’ve never done a day time ride along. Today’s first was to spend the day in a patrol car with my son.
Nathanael wanted to be an astronaut when he was four. Then, tragically, the space shuttle Challenger exploded and for days he watched the sad news coverage. He decided he didn’t want to be an astronaut any more. He wanted to be a police officer. By the time he was eight years old, he had a police scanner and had made his own uniform. He planned his future and never wavered in his intention.
Many children want to be police officers or firefighters or professional athletes when they are young and they grow out of that dream and move on to another. Nate only committed himself deeper to his chosen profession by learning everything he could about being an officer. He learned codes and how to respond to calls by listening to his scanner and repeating what he heard. Soon he was responding, correctly, ahead of the officer on the call.
He used his artistic abilities to create, from cardboard, hot glue and paint, the front half of a police car and sat for hours behind the steering wheel, his imagination creating situations for him to respond to. He practiced “making arrests” although his sisters weren’t always cooperative with being handcuffed! He did his first ride along with a police officer when he was barely tall enough to see out the windshield. When he was 14 he joined the Police Explorer Program and all that he had been practicing began to be used in reality. He graduated from MSSU with degrees in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement and has been a police officer now for almost 9 years.
Today, I watched the man, living out his dream with expertise and confidence. Nate is an excellent officer, serving his department as a field training officer and he’s certified and qualified in so many areas. He knows how to handle himself well and I saw the respect he receives from his fellow officers. He’s more than a good officer though, he’s a good man. I watched how he deals with people who are having problems or have been pulled over because of a traffic or vehicle violation. He treated everyone with respect, dignity and compassion. I was struck by how polite and yet firm he was, how gracious to those who needed help.
I discovered something new about my son today. He is an old soul, in a young man’s body. He has wisdom and a set of beliefs often found in an older generation. He sees the value in each person he deals with and has hope for humanity. He cares about what happens to others. His young daughter proudly tells everyone that her daddy is a hero, her hero. I proudly say the same thing….he’s my hero too.