Wednesday, October 5, 2022

The Body Cam

 Fitted with a Body Camera 


If you’ve followed my blog, you know I am currently enrolled in our local Citizens Police Academy. 


Last week offered lessons learned about making decisions. Certainly, our police officers make thousands of split second decisions every shift. My own mistakes in the Firearms Simulator gave me a new appreciation for the power the influence of others can have on decisions we make daily. (If you missed that post you can go back and read it HERE.)


This week, three teams presented information to our class: Force Science, the Body Worn Camera Unit, and the Integrity and Development Unit (think “internal affairs”). These areas offer critical, independent data to assess those decisions officers make in the field on a daily basis. 


The underlying theme for each?


ACT: Accountability, Credibility, and Transparency.


I could certainly create a post for each. But not today. For this post, I want to explore the notion of “body cameras.”


Our presenter demonstrated how body cameras work, how the information cannot be altered by the person wearing it, and how the data is downloaded and stored at the end of each shift.


I looked to the woman beside me in class and jokingly said, “This could be a great tool for raising teenagers.” She laughed, but the truth is this: body camera information is only a small piece of the puzzle.


In this day and age of instant access to information, cell phones, and body cams, we  often view events on television in what we may consider “real time.” I know many of us watch videos and immediately think we are seeing the whole truth unfold before our eyes. 


I was privileged to raise three daughters. I watched them grow to be incredible women, wonderful wives and mothers. They are great people. I not only love them, I like them. Would I feel the same way if I had “body cam footage” from every aspect of their lives?


I can’t help but wonder how others would assess my life if all they had was the footage from a camera mounted to my vest. 


They might see my refrigerator door open as I scan the contents for breakfast and choose a yogurt. They might think, “That’s healthy.” What they wouldn’t see is me wishing I hadn’t run out of chocolate pudding and making a mental note to buy more. Chocolate pudding for breakfast? I never said I make wise choices.


If I wore a body cam to a football game, viewers may see what I see and hear me cheer for my team, but the footage may or may not pick up on me knocking over the drink of the guy next to me. Yes, I can be a klutz. Hopefully, the footage will reveal I apologized and offered to buy him another drink.


When I was in college, would the camera have shown me doodling instead of taking notes or would it be aimed at the professor? Actually, that could be pretty good. Go to class, sleep through the class, download the lecture, and replay it as you study. Nah…if it put me to sleep the first time, I won’t make it through the next.


It could be hard to view my life through a single lens. Hard for anyone else to make sense of the million decisions I make each day. Some might judge me as being lazy while others might think I’m hyper. A single lens offers a single vantage point.


As for police and body cam footage or spectators and cell phone videos? These are only pieces of the story puzzle. Pieces. 


There is a verse in the Bible that reads, “…be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” It’s in the book of James. To me it’s a reminder to assemble all the pieces of the puzzle before rendering judgment.


I’m glad I’m not fitted with a body cam from God. If I had to stand before God one day and account for every mistake I’ve made that showed up on my body cam footage, I’d be in a heap of trouble. God already sees me for who I am and loves me anyway. And He’s already forgiven me.

Here is one rendition of a Body (and) Camera!














Tuesday, September 27, 2022




Last week I wrote about using the firearms simulator at the Citizens Police Academy training. I mentioned this training is important because our officers must learn critical decision-making skills. CLICK HERE if you missed that post.


I shared with you my overall success. Note I said, “overall,” not total. I joked with a friend that I managed to get a pretty good score…and only killed one civilian. Nothing funny there.


What? Yes it was a simulator, but killing one civilian is one too many.


I’ve been thinking this over all week. I know what happened there, but how it plays out in real life may be a more powerful lesson.


First, let’s go back to the simulator. We were paired with another classmate for the firearms simulator activity. The person with the weapon was to assess the situation alone and choose to fire or not. The other person was to remain quiet. 


That worked for the most part. But in this one situation, the woman behind me blurted out, “Is that a gun in his waistband?”


She said there was a bulge. He reached around and I shot. I got him…and his flashlight never touched me. You read that right. The man was removing a flashlight. There was no gun. 


Would I have reacted the same way on my own? Or did the woman’s voice behind me influence my decision? I think it did. I never saw a bulge or a gun. I listened to what she said and what she saw. 


I’ve mulled this over and over. Right or wrong, the voices of others who are equally uninformed are able to influence our thinking. We must…yes MUST…think for ourselves.


I hate to use this example because it comes from the Christian world. Many people lost a lot of money and even more confidence in preachers when Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker defrauded thousands of people of millions of dollars. The Bakkers spoke. People listened. Even if it didn’t make sense that anyone and everyone investing in Heritage, USA would have all the benefits promised. There is only so much to go around.


And remember Jonestown? Jim Jones spoke. People listened. Right up until the moment they drank the Kool-aid and died.


Those examples are old…but they ring true today. I fear many people simply listen to something on television or the radio and make decisions based on what they hear from someone else.


People with their own agenda like to tell others how to think or what to do.


We are entering the poll booth season. The midterm elections and ads on television are already taking aim at us. I’m not the one to tell you which candidate to choose or how to vote on any given issue. 


I’m only here to remind you to think for yourself. Don’t waste your voting bullet to shoot down a harmless or perhaps even helpful target. 



Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Train. Serve. Protect.

 Train, Serve, Protect... 

and Train Some More

A couple of weeks ago I shared my first impressions of my local Citizens Police Academy. I have now completed three of my ten-week class sessions and last Saturday participated in a “ride along” experience with officers in the field.


I accompanied one officer Saturday evening from 7:00pm to the end of his shift before tagging along with the second officer until my tour ended at 2:00am on Sunday morning. 


The “ride along” experience gave me a new view of my community. I didn’t realize how our roughly thirty-six square mile township fit in the scheme of the Greater Cincinnati area; in ethnicity and socio-economic status as well as in terms of land use. 


I’ll admit, there was a part of me that wanted to see a bit of action. And I did. But there was the responsible adult in me hoping for a boring, uneventful evening… unless it of course involved something sweet and innocuous straight out of books of Mayberry. 


Saturday night, we received calls regarding domestic disputes, a sick raccoon wandering the neighborhood, the threat of gun violence at an apartment complex, and alarms sounding at area warehouses. There were a few traffic stops and a missing elderly man. The officers I rode with answered all of my questions without hesitation. I learned how radar works, examined the evidence kit used to process crime scenes, and learned all about the onboard computer system. I even found out our police station has its own gas pump. 


I learned so much about procedures and protocol. But the big takeaway?


A community is a patchwork quilt and the police keep it from becoming unraveled.


The part of the township where I live is mostly residential. The number of growing business concerns tucked in areas that were once farms gave me both a new appreciation for our law enforcement officers as well as the tasks our elected commissioners face to bring balance and income to our area.


Class 3: Firearms Simulator  


This was cool.


The truth is, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about participating in a gun battle, albeit it computer generated.  Although I learned to shoot guns in my youth, I have become reluctant to approve of firearms in the home. 


While one officer talked with the group about conceal and carry training and firearms licensing, small groups of us were taken to a training room where we faced movie type scenarios, made split second decisions and shot laser fitted firearms at bad guys. We could then see a recap of our performance. 


Our police officers do this same training because decision-making is a critical skill for those whose charge is to serve and protect.

Here are a couple of pictures : 

Guns used for the simulator:
Actual guns fitted with laser technology.
Same weight and feel as the 
actual weapon.

Filmed Shooter: It's him or you!

I started the Citizens Police Academy to inform my writing. I wanted to adequately portray the workings of the police.  I will use the information as I construct new stories and novels. That's good.

But the more I learn, the more I appreciate those people dedicated to serving our community by daily putting their lives on the line to protect ours.






Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Ready to Party?

May 1995

When is the Party?

As most of my readers know, I was a teacher for many years. I eventually turned in the red pen used for grading and picked up the black one used for writing. 


I loved teaching. I loved working with children in the elementary school setting. I have remained close to many of those kiddos through the years. I’ve attended a few graduations and weddings. I’ve watched as they have grown into incredible men and women. This is one such story.


In 1994, I received my class roster for the upcoming school year. It was my practice to complete a home visit with each of my students before the first semester started. I would call ahead and arrange a time to visit the student as well as meet the parents and siblings. Often the child would show me his or her room or introduce me to a beloved pet. One student asked me to climb up in the tree house he and his dad built together. I must admit that was a first, but because I loved to climb trees as a child, I obliged.


Then there was Adam.


Adam was a special case. When I visited his home, he had just been diagnosed with cancer. Adam had an inoperable tumor in his brain. I met his mother and older sister that day. We talked about school. He told me they were going on a Disney vacation. He showed me his backyard. 


It was a tough time for the family. I could see the pain in his mother’s eyes. I was determined when I left Adam’s house to make sure the school experience offered a haven of normalcy in all of their lives. And I prayed. 


I have what I call my alphabet prayer. Whenever I tell someone I will pray for them, I file their name under that letter of the alphabet. It isn’t a physical file, mind you. It is one I carry around in my head. Every day, I pray through that list. Sometimes people drop off of the list as their prayers are answered. Sometimes the prayers change. And usually the prayers start with praise. 


(As an aside, I often pray the alphabet prayer at night. I joke that people whose names start at the beginning of the alphabet are the lucky ones, because I sometimes fall asleep around the M’s and N’s. I do try to make up for it though.)


Since starting in the summer of 1994 I have prayed daily for Adam. My prayer was…is… simple. “I praise you, God for the healing of Adam Gellenbeck.”


Adam was a candidate for a new technique to treat the tumor growing deep in his brain. As I understand the procedure, the surgeons used a radiation treatment to implode the growth on itself. This would stop the cancer.


In May of 1995, Adam stood in front of our class for “sharing time.” Some people call it “show and tell.” My rules for sharing were simple. 1) You must use at least three complete sentences and 2) After you share, you may answer three questions from the audience. There were rules for the audience as well. They had to ask a question instead of offering a comment and the question could not be answered with a simple a yes or no.


That day, Adam stood bravely in front of our class.


“I’m going to California,” he said. “They’re going to put something in my brain. I might die. If I die, I won't come back. But if I don’t die, I’ll come back for my birthday party at my grandma’s. You can come. Any questions?”


Hands flew up. I will never forget the first question. “When is the party?”


There was so much faith and hope in that question. It was filled with the assurance that Adam would return. And he did. We all gathered at his grandmother’s pool that summer for the best birthday party ever.


I have not waivered in my prayers and praises for Adam. I prayed him through his elementary and high school years. I prayed him through college. I prayed over him when as an architect he joined up with Back2Back ministries and began designing and building housing and schools for special needs children in Mexico. I prayed for him as he married a beautiful woman named Bere. I watched the wedding video on my computer and again praised God for the healing of Adam Gellenbeck. 


A few weeks ago, Adam contacted me. He and his bride were going to be in Ohio. There was to be a reception for them at Adam’s home church. He wanted to know if I could come. My answer? Absolutely.


Yep, that's me with Adam and his bride, Bere.

I told my family about it. 


“When’s the party?” they asked.


I had to smile. That question is still loaded with faith and hope and anticipation. 

The alphabet prayer continues. “A” for Adam and “B” for Bere, his bride. 

“I praise you God for the healing of Adam Gellenbeck. And I praise you for Bere, his bride.”

P.S. I hope to visit this sweet couple in Mexico in the future. Came close to it once several years ago, but that is another story. you can find it HERE.



Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Citizen's Arrest

 “Citizen’s Arrest”


Remember when Gomer in the Andy Griffith show makes a citizen’s arrest? I can’t remember all of the details, but I do remember Gomer’s target was Barney.


I couldn’t help but recall Gomer calling after the deputy, “Citizen’s arrest! Citizen’s arrest!” as I checked in for my first class at my local Citizens Police Academy. 


There were no Barney Fifes and no Gomer Pyles. I didn’t meet a Bruce Willis (Die Hard) or a Mel Gibson (Lethal Weapon) either. It’s not that I expected such characters, but our image of police is often shaped by television or movies. 


The officers I met are deeply dedicated to serving others. I know they would arm themselves to the teeth and do anything and everything to protect our citizens from evil but that wasn’t the big takeaway. For the officers I met, it isn’t about badges and power. It isn’t about laws. It isn’t about force. Here is the big picture:


Police officers care deeply about people.


All people. Even “the bad guys.” More than one officer spoke of criminals as people who made poor judgment calls or mistakes. 


They spoke of a “responsibility to care.”


Though it was not one of the main topics, if you listened closely, you’d hear a comment about an officer buying a meal for an indigent on the street or another policeman paying out of pocket for a new tire for someone stranded on the road. 


A woman in the class noted that she knew a man whose life was changed because a police officer managed to get him a hotel room on a cold night.


The officers in my community are humble community servants. 


I learned my community isn’t unique. Our surrounding cities and towns are similar. They all work together. They back each other up and sincerely seek to help each and every individual in the area. 


I looked around the room. Four doors. One of the four guiding principles of our police department posted boldly above each door. 

Integrity. Commitment. Professionalism. Courage.


I’m enrolled in this class for ten weeks. I’m signed up for a ride-along on a Saturday night. Through the course I’ll learn defensive tactics, ride in a swat vehicle, engage in a criminalistics lab activity, and participate in a firearms simulator. Those are a few of the items on the itinerary.


In the meantime, I encourage you to check out your own police force. See if they offer a program for citizens. 


But whatever you do, do not chase after someone yelling, “Citizen’s arrest! Citizen’s arrest!”




Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The Shared Life

The Shared Life


This past week I attended my high school reunion. How many years? Um…let’s say… “A lot.” Okay, I’ll fess up. It was my fiftieth. Actually, “fifty plus one” since we could not celebrate last year due to COVID. 


Because I was traveling from Ohio to Florida for the event, I thought this week’s blog would be all about reconnecting with my high school friends. 


Indeed, it is a post about reconnecting, but in more ways than I expected.


My mom came with me so she could see some of her friends in Florida as well. We stopped for the night in southern Kentucky where many folks on my mother’s side of the family still live. My cousin, Gerry, graciously opened her home to us to spend the night. Moreover, she let other family members know of our visit. We all shared a delicious home cooked meal made complete with vegetables from the garden. 


The food was wonderful, but the conversation lasting long into the shadows of the evening proved to be the real icing on the cake. Reunion.


We completed a much longer drive the next day (Saturday), arriving late that evening at the lake house where my husband grew up. Sunday morning we joined family and friends at Lutz First Baptist for an incredible hour of worship. My husband and I were married in that church and the last two winters of Tom’s life we spent worshiping with friends there. 


If you are a Believer, you have likely experienced those moments where you feel the Holy Spirit simply washing over you and filling every crevice of the room. If you aren’t a Believer, trust me, those moments breathe new life into you. Reunion.


After church, my family joined us at the lake house for the day. Tom’s brothers and sister and their families were there. They are my brothers and sister and family, too. I had the chance to play with the newest member of the clan, my great niece, Jaylen. 


I closed my eyes and absorbed the ebb and flow of family throughout the day. A memory I hope to hold forever. Reunion. 


On Tuesday, my high school friend, Nancy and her husband, Marty came to the lake house for a visit, bringing with them one of my favorite Florida foods, Cuban sandwiches. You know you are good friends when you pick up right where you left off as if years hadn’t passed between visits. It’s like that with Nancy and Marty. 


On Thursday, my mother and I headed to Rainbow River in Dunellon, Florida. The locals call the river “Blue Run.” It is one of the most beautiful places on the face of the earth. We have family there as well. They aren’t family by birth or formal adoption. They are lifelong friends. 


Lifelong friends are the sort who rally around you in times of need and cheer for you even in the small victories of life. And you do the same for them. 


Quiet conversations with friends you’ve known most of your life. Reunion.


Saturday evening's High School Reunion arrived. Tampa has grown so much since I lived here I never would have found the place on my own. I rode to the event with my neighbor and friend Mike. 


Name tags were helpful in many cases because we were a class of over six hundred. But in truth, of the many ninety or so who showed up, I recognized my friends. I often witness pieces of their lives on Facebook. But what I loved is that I recognized so many others without looking at a name tag. We ate. We danced. We laughed. 


There is a spirit of friendship and joy and camaraderie planted in our hearts during those high school years that transcends graying hair, extra pounds, wrinkles, and glasses. Reunion.


I traveled to Florida for my high school reunion  but it was so much more. 


Reunion. It was a full week of coming together with family who are friends and friends are family. It was an opportunity to renew relationships and make new ones.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

There's No Place Like Home

 “There’s No Place Like Home”


We all know the famous lesson Dorothy learned in the Wizard of Oz. “There’s no place like home." It’s true.


This past week, I traveled to Florida for my high school reunion. “Is that where you’re from?” one of my Ohio friends asked.


“Yep, I lived in a small town just north of Tampa." 


Actually, I was born in Ohio and I’ve spent most of my life in Ohio. So why do I say I’m from Florida? I suppose it’s because those major events of life…those transitions an anthropologist would call “rites of passage” that catapult us from being a child to being an adult, took place in Florida.


·      I graduated from both high school and college in Florida

·      I got my drivers license and first car in Florida

·      I cast my first vote in Florida

·      I started dating in Florida

·      I was married in Florida

·     My first two children were born in Florida

·     My husband and I retired to Florida…to the house where he grew up


Quite simply, I have always considered myself  “a Florida girl.”


Tom and I moved to Ohio in 1978. The plan was to live here for a year or so while he completed his master’s degree at the University of Cincinnati. We had two daughters when we moved into our temporary home. The next year I landed a teaching job at the elementary school of my choice. Though we still had our house in Florida, we bought a house in a friendly neighborhood in Fairfield, Ohio. Tom finished his master’s and started his doctoral program. Our third daughter was born in Ohio.


We built a life in southwestern Ohio. We had jobs we liked, a church family we loved, and my extended family nearby. Yet when people asked, we would refer to ourselves as being from Florida. 


If someone noticed our license plate when we were traveling they would say, “Oh, you’re from Ohio! I have a cousin there…” or something to that effect. We would respond with, “We live in Ohio now, but we’re from Florida.” 


We said that for years after our move from Florida. Even after we made the decision to sell our Florida home in the late eighty’s. Our identity was that place where we became adults.


This weekend I’ll gather with old friends from Chamberlain High School. We’ll share stories and remember strange details about our years together. We’ll laugh at our former selves. We’ll lie and tell each other things like, “You haven’t changed a bit!” We’ll share pictures of our children and grandchildren. And then we’ll all go home.


Me? I may be from Florida, but I finally realize my heart and home is in Ohio.

Where are you from? And where to you call home?