I was out for a Friday night ride along with Officer Ida. We were dispatched to meet a man causing a disturbance on a street corner within our beat. “Chaplain, you are gonna love this call,” she said as we pulled up curbside. We got out of the car and approached a man known to Officer Ida. I will call him “Mr. Zealous.” He was standing on the sidewalk next to a very busy pizza parlor and game room boldly proclaiming his “truths.” A big smile appeared on his face when he saw the newest additions to his audience–patrol officers. “It’s my brothah and sistah,” he said. Officer Ida glanced at me with a somewhat concealed smirk. “Praise God, people!” He continued, “What can I do for you tonight, officers? Did people call on account of me again?”
“Yes, they did,” Officer Ida replied. “There is someone I want you to meet. He’s my friend, he’s the chaplain.” The introduction brought a sheepish grin to Mr. Zealous’ face. Stepping back, he said “oh, alright.”
Mr. Zealous had been excited to be outdoors “sharing” on this warm Friday night. From his perspective the people walking in the area were his grand audience and his personal mission field. He was in his element and loved all the attention. Good or bad, the attention was all he needed for personal validation. He wanted to make people think, he said. His expressions had prompted people to think alright; they thought about what he was doing and decided to call the police.
Mr. Zealous had a variety of elaborate tattoos all over his neck, arms, and face, including a religious fish symbol <>< next to his right eye. Ida asked if he had been loud and causing a disturbance. “Yes,” was his immediate reply. “Sometimes I need to take my voice to extreme decibels so the people can hear the truth.” He started reciting words of condemnation from the writings of a few Old Testament prophets from memory. His words were impeccably accurate and his zeal undeniable.
When he paused for a reaction, I felt it was my cue to do the talking, so I asked him a few questions. “The Holy Spirit,” I said, “when He descended, was it like a dove, or a screaming vulture?” He wasn’t sure what to do with that question. He calmly restated his reasoning for being there and assured us he was just following God’s orders. He told us that he was a man under authority and was preaching salvation. I reminded Mr. Zealous of a passage in Romans 13—that we are all subject to the authorities, and that God places all the authorities in our lives. I reminded him that the police were the authority and that he need to do what they tell him to do.
Officer Ida told Mr. Zealous we were very busy and people with serious issues were waiting for our police services. We wanted to assist them but were sent here to resolve this situation. She appealed to his sense of justice for others. She asked if he could lower his decibel level and refrain from reciting his message for the rest of the night so we could go help those in true need. He reluctantly agreed and promised we would not be called again “tonight.”
Many calls for service involve people without the mental ability to make wise choices and who need psychiatric care. Some have a long history of drug use, and others simply refuse to take their medication. Calls of this nature can result in a display of unpredictable behavior and sometimes confrontations where individuals exhibit super-human strength. Thankfully, this was not the case on this call.
Thank you, Officer Ida, for managing the call with such insight and respect. You recognized the man’s sincere need to express himself and were able to redirect him to appropriate behavior.
The next time you see someone you perceive may have inhibited mental capabilities, say a silent prayer for them and the police officers that will ultimately be called to assist and deal with the challenges.