PORTLAND, Ore. — Many people have a quick prayer for help at work. But, unlike the pleas for calmed nerves during an important presentation or help with an angry co-worker, very few people ask the Lord for help facing down the barrel of a loaded gun.
Bob Pippen, a Portland police officer, did just that when a high-speed chase resulted in a car crash and both officer and suspect drew their weapons.
For Pippen, facing less than ideal work conditions is all part of doing what he loves. "Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a cop," he said. "It's stereotypical, but it is just something I have always wanted to do." When Pippen, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, finally got his dream job, he realized the importance of relying upon his beliefs, his faith and even the LDS hymn book to help him cope with his job. In the early 1990s while working in a particularly rough part of town, Pippen and his partner, who was also LDS, used church hymns to provide some peace in the most unlikely of places.
"One day as we were going to the jail, the arrested subject was in the back cursing and being very vulgar with us. My partner and I then started to sing 'Love at Home' to him. It was amazing. He stopped cursing at us and just sat in the back with a puzzled look on his face," Pippen said. "Well, that was so successful that we then started to sing church songs on a regular basis for those that were being a problem during transport. And you know, nine times out of 10 it worked wonders."
Since singing hymns in his squad car, Pippen took on several roles within his department, including that of teacher, training new and incoming police officers. But even with all his knowledge and experience, nothing could have prepared Pippen for what took place last year. While on the way to traffic court for a routine appearance, Pippen heard over the police radio there was a carjacking in the area. As soon as he heard the license plate numbers, he realized the stolen car was directly in front of him and decided to pursue.
"For the first time in my career I got really scared, a different type of scared," Pippen said. "I knew something bad was going to happen."
Even with the looming premonition, Pippen pursued the suspect, who allegedly stole the BMW, which was ahead of Pippen, at gunpoint. When the chase went into high speeds on and off the freeway, all Pippen had time for was a few words. "I remember saying to Heavenly Father, 'Help me now,' and that's all I could get out," Pippen said. "It wasn't a prayer — it was almost like an order."
After his quick prayer for help, the chase ended in a crash as Pippen's police car collided with the stolen vehicle. Both officer and suspect struggled to exit their mangled vehicles. Pippen and the suspect drew their weapons. Pippen fired first. As he approached the wounded suspect, he looked down at the gun on the ground, still fully loaded with the hammer drawn back.
At that moment, he knew the Lord had protected him from harm. "There are a lot of nuances and little things that happened that day that no one will fully understand except me," Pippen said. "It wasn't luck. The Lord heard my plea that day and helped things happen the way they did."
As Pippen reflects on his 19 years of service, he acknowledges there were many instances that could have challenged his faith, but he credits his wife and the gospel for helping him keep an eternal perspective while working in such a challenging environment.
"I have gained a new appreciation for the term 'telestial world' because I get to see that side. The world is pretty and there are a lot of nice things to see, but there is a lot of ugliness out there that most people don't know exists," Pippen said. "Almost on a daily basis my knowledge of the gospel and knowing that this is a telestial world that we live in helps me deal with it."
Kevin McGrath earned his journalism degree from Brigham Young University and is a freelance journalist.