Fifty years ago I was young, zealous, naive and somewhat ignorant in spite of all of my reading and study. I had to learn a lot, quickly. I was a backwoods country boy. I seldom saw very many cars at once, and then only if I went to a city like Roanoke. When I graduated from Basic School, they gave me a high horsepower Plymouth and assigned me to the hottest duty station in the State. I had the bloodiest 15 miles of undivided, four lane, U.S. Route 1 in the State as well as a very large county to patrol.
I carried a large bottle of Pepto-Bismol and drank it like soda pop to keep down the fires in my churning, acidic stomach… I survived and learned.
I learned to see what others seldom saw. I learned caution in all things in relation to law enforcement. I learned very quickly how to deal with military officers and enlisted personnel because they were a large part of the traffic in my assigned duty station with four bases in my county including Quantico Marine Base.
I also learned to deal with whole families that made it a habit to disregard laws relating to motor vehicles. I learned so well that I had to spread all of my court cases over four to six days of my day shift and found it necessary to keep a ledger in which I recorded all cases and their disposition. I carried an expanding file and the ledger to court. I wrote all pertinent facts of each case on the back of my copy of the arrest/summons form so as to be able to give the most accurate information as I testified in each case.
In those days it was hard to get a DUI conviction at all so I developed a new habit one night as a new case was being processed. I tasted the soap and I tasted the water. During the hearing of the case I was testifying to the substances being used to clean the arm before extracting the blood sample… My testimony was that the doctor, whose credentials I reviewed, cleaned the accused violator’s arm with soap and water… The Defense Attorney immediately jumped to his feet and objected to my statement! “How could the Trooper know that the substances were soap and water?”
I stated that I tasted them… The Judge cracked up trying to keep from laughing… The Defense Attorney wilted and fell back into his chair… That was my first DUI conviction ever! No one had been able to get a DUI conviction in that court under that law before that time. It is amazing how the most simple inspirations can bring the most powerful results… It’s the little things…
My times and experiences in law enforcement are seldom far from my thoughts. They replay through my thoughts whenever I am not doing anything else, and sometimes those thoughts invade my consciousness even when I am busy with other things occupying my thoughts. The thoughts often return accompanied by the sights, sounds, odors and encounters experienced in each incident.
I am amazed at how I survived without any injuries except two small scratches. Those encounters included a perp trying to kill me with a car…
Numerous dog and animal encounters including snakes, numerous threats to be attacked and eliminated from this life, numerous manhunts and numerous incidents in which I had to convince antagonistic individuals that it would be best for them to calm down and control themselves if they wanted to remain healthy and survive our encounter.
I learned how valuable protective safety measures were. My most valuable safety measure was a lanyard attached to the butt of my revolver on one end and wound around my arm at the shoulder and fastened under the epaulet on my uniform at the other end. That device saved me many times because we did not have the best of holsters in those days and they were swiveled to lay beside our leg in the car seat. Often the small single snap on the retention strap would come loose for whatever reason and the revolver would slide out onto the seat. If that happened, the revolver would follow me when I got out of the car because we were attached together by the lanyard.
One other habit was to carry two or more sets of car keys and cuff keys… And carry them in different places with a hidden one in a wallet or coin carrier. More than once I was spared the embarrassment of being locked out of my car with the keys in the ignition or having a prisoner in cuffs and having no key because I always had those hidden keys. Sometimes the little things make all the difference. A grizzled old Sergeant taught me that when I reported for duty on my first station… He’s gone now but I will love and respect him forever!
One such case of the little things involved the case of seeing two boys carrying .22 rifles one warm, sunny mid-morning. I questioned them to find out where they had been and where they lived. Several days later I was assigned a case to investigate vandalism done to a fire tower and cabin owned by the State Forrest Service. Everything that could be destroyed or broken was… There were numerous empty .22 shell casings everywhere in the tower and inside and around the cabin. After completing my investigation and taking photographs, I remembered the two boys from several days before who were in the area of the trail leading to the fire tower.
I found the boys and the guns and the firing pin markings matched. When I first approached the families they were strongly adamant that their sons could not have done this terrible deed. After being shown the evidence and my confiscating the rifles, they became apologetic and cooperative. The boys were charged, convicted, sentenced to many hours of service to and with the State Forest Service and the guns were directed to be impounded until the boys became age 21. We must be alert and see what is available for us to see.
I want so much to be back out there but now my law enforcement days must be experienced by memory only. By State Law I am too old to be a sworn law enforcement officer again even if I had no physical defects and were strong as an ox.
Peace Keepers, please remember it is often the little things that make all the difference. It has been so through all of my career. I used to be called foolish when I would pick up auto body filler from the scene of a hit and run until I solved one very difficult case by finding the car and driver and matching pieces of body filler from the crash scene to the jagged edges of filler still on the car… Case closed… Perp convicted!
Or the time I was on a rural road and met a car, going the opposite direction, being driven by someone I knew had a suspended operator’s license… I turned and came up behind the vehicle just as the driver was switching places with a front seat passenger while the car was still traveling at 50 mph… He was on the right front floor when I opened the right side front door and protested loudly that he was not driving. In court he pled guilty after hearing my testimony of what I observed and produced the certified suspension order that was issued prior to the day I caught him driving… This because I learned to see the driver and front end details of vehicles I met on the road!
Another time I had charged a tractor-trailer operator with defective equipment… I always obtained a certified driving record on all people I charged with a motor vehicle or driving offense. His came back suspended. I saw him entering the Interstate some days later, stopped him, impounded the vehicle and took him to the Justice of the Peace. He had not told his employer that his operating privileges had been suspended so the truck was released to the owner who fired the driver. The driver was found guilty.
Seeing and noting the little things have solved many cases and caught many perps for me over all of these years. One night on walking beat patrol we received a message to be on the lookout for a man that needed to be found for a family emergency. As I was working my busy block and surveying the crowd, I was especially watching for this man described in the radio message. A few moments later I saw him coming up the sidewalk in the crowd. He walked past several officers and another chaplain… When he got to me I pulled him out of the crowd, verified his ID, told him he was needed at a certain location and helped him to get there. My fellow chaplain was astonished that I could pick out the man when others had not seen him… The little things (learning to see what others do not see) can be most valuable and important for others as well as myself.
In addition, I have learned to talk to aggressive dogs like I have been trained to talk to aggressive people and am usually able to convince them to go away… I have even talked to snakes and gotten good results… Once I turned a corner around a junk vehicle and surprised the snake who was traveling toward me and we both stopped… I told it to go away… It hesitated as though thinking about it and then it went another way!
I share these little things today because they were so valuable to me many times over. If something I write helps you even once, then it is most important that I wrote it. Peace Keepers, you are most valuable among all people… Were it not for you and what you do and have done, there would be no life as we know it today! THANK YOU! BE EVEN GREATER BLESSED AS YOU SERVE… AND GO HOME SAFELY AT THE END OF YOUR TOUR!
“BE CAREFUL OUT THERE!” ALWAYS be alert, watchful, suspicious and wary. Take the very best care of you as you care for and about others. See to the strength and well being of your spirit as well as all the rest of yourself. Your spirit must be strong for you to be successful. All of this is by your own choice… He has made provision for you but it is up to you to learn it, take it and put it to use for the best results possible.
Call or write if I may be of any service… Or if you just want to encourage me… Feedback encourages all who write… It helps to know we are reaching someone who reads the message.
Donna was readmitted to the hospital on 9/5. The access tube in her arm caused a huge clot and became infected. She had not needed antibiotics and it had clotted off altogether and was useless. It was removed 9/6. The retention collar on the tube stayed in her arm and had to be dug out leaving a large painful wound on the inside of her upper right arm. Her flank wound is still draining some everyday also. She has lost so much weight in the past six weeks that they can now find good usable veins in her right arm where IVs can be installed and not have the vein collapse. I expect her home by mid-week. Also she has weaned herself off the high doses of pain medication and she is a new person. Everyone who knows her is astonished at her new medication free attitude and new appearance.
Donnie is still working and plans to repair his truck next week.
I am fine except for the unpredictable left eye.
Thank you for the responses, care, concern and prayers. Keep the prayers going, they definitely are working.
As it has always been… So it still is!!!
“VICTORIOUS WARRIORS WIN FIRST…
AND THEN GO TO WAR,
WHILE DEFEATED WARRIORS GO TO WAR FIRST…
AND THEN SEEK TO WIN.” Sun tzu
Training and practice are everything!
Without them, the best results are not obtained!
ONLY LIVE PEACE KEEPERS SEE THE VICTORY!!!
THEY SEE IT ONLY BECAUSE OTHERS HAVE MADE THEIR ETERNAL PAYMENTS OF SWEAT, BLOOD, TEARS AND LIFE FOR THAT VICTORY!
WITH THE DEEPEST OF APPRECIATION AND RESPECT…
BE BLESSED (A CONDITION TO BE ENVIED)…
BE SUCCESSFUL… BE SAFE…
[My injunction to be safe means doing all you know to do as you do your job... it means doing the best you can with what you have where you are using all your faculties to get the job done well and with good results conquering evil and keeping or restoring peace... it does not mean to avoid duty and honor... it does not mean to cower or allow anything to hinder you in the process of duty according to rules, law and ethics... it means that if the demand takes your earthly life you destroy as much evil as possible in the process. That is my definition of being safe... doing the best you can and leaving the rest to God or whomever else is responsible... being best employed for the sake and protection of all the things and people that we hold dear.]
I represent, write for… and give the credit to:
God the Father (my Commander-in-Chief),
Jesus Christ the Son (the Eternal Captain of my life) and
the Holy Spirit of God (my Eternal Teacher, Keeper and Guide).
In Christ I live… with Him and for you I serve…
And I rejoice that you are there whether you are Christian or not…
For God, Country and the Peace Keeper…
D. R. (Don) Staton, Chaplain to Peace Keepers,
Surviving Peace Keeper,
Virginia State Police Alumni,
RETIRED Police Officer,
RETIRED Police Instructor,
RETIRED Chaplain Administrator,
Community Service Officer (Traffic Safety),
Virginia Beach Police Dept.
3709 Beacon Lane, Virginia Beach, VA 23452
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Except for quoted material attributed to a specific source, all material in CHAPLAIN CORNER is my personal opinion gained from 49 years of working with people in peace keeping and is not to be construed to represent the policies and opinions of any department with whom I have served or am serving.
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