To Vest or Not to Vest:
Valley Police Department, August 1992
While putting on my uniform, I paused to consider the Kevlar, bullet proof vest.

It was August again, and like every other August in Eastern Nebraska, the weather was more than uncomfortably hot and humid, it was excruciating! While I was getting ready to go to work for the 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM / C-Shift, the weather forecast on the radio was predicting a late afternoon high of 101 degrees, with a much higher heat index. The overnight low was expected to be very humid with temps in the 80’s.

While putting on my uniform, I paused to consider the Kevlar, bullet proof vest. I figured that the chances of me dying from heat stroke far outweighed the odds of me getting shot, so a laid the vest aside for this afternoon and evening. I finished getting ready, and went to work.

It was a pretty uneventful shift. Around 9:00 PM, I called in that I would be out at my residence for my dinner break. Waiting in the parking lot of the apartment complex where we lived was my wife Micki. Micki worked as a computer consultant at Valmont Industries, but was formerly a Police Officer at Columbia, Missouri, so she knew the challenges of my job, and had seen a significant amount of action during her days behind the badge, including one incident where she survived being shot.

No sooner had we walked across the lot, and were about to go inside, I received a call from dispatch on my portable radio. “Five-Four: Lot 779 Timber Lodge Lake; Back District 9, Shots-Fired.”

Timber Lodge Lake was an unincorporated community about a mile south of Valley. As the name implies, it is a lakeside community with a number of homes gathered around a nice sized lake. While a shots fired call in the city might have generated a bit of alarm, it’s not uncommon in rural areas for someone to tear down his gun, and after re-assembling the weapon, go outside and fire it once or twice to make sure it’s working properly. Maybe it’s not the smartest thing for someone to do, but it’s not illegal and it’s not uncommon. Typically two officers are dispatched, and the matter is handled more or less like a noise disturbance.

What I did not know, was radio traffic regarding the incident that had taken place on another channel. The District 9 Sheriff’s Deputy, a young, rookie officer, had been attempting to serve papers on a resident who was a known hot head. The hot head greeted the deputy with a .12 gauge shotgun, and had lit up the sky with a round or two while telling the deputy to go away.

These events were made apparent to me as I, along with four other units arrived, and finally found the location of the incident and the deputy taking cover behind his patrol car. The subject was standing with his shotgun in the driveway, along with his wife, who is willingly standing between the officers and her husband to prevent anyone from taking a shot at the subject. Sergeant Kurt Denker from the Elkhorn Police Department did an outstanding job of negotiating with the subject, and got him to agree to put the gun aside and come along like a nice boy. The deputies took the subject into custody, and we all cleared the scene to return to our various patrol areas.

I went back home to resume my dinner break, and was again met in the parking lot by Micki, who had monitored the whole event on the scanner. She calmly walked up to me, and with her finger tips, pushed me back at the center of my chest. “You Son of a BITCH! YOU’RE NOT WEARING YOUR VEST!!! I ought to kick your ass!!!

It was at this exact point in time where I re-evaluated my assessment of my odds of survival between heat stroke and gun shots. I now added the odds of being righteously killed by my pissed off wife, which far outweighed heat stroke, and most likely outweighed gun shots as well! From that point forward, I never failed to wear my Kevlar vest ever again!

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