A Letter From The Wife of a Police Officer

Years ago, a friend of mine told me a story about her encounter with the local police. She was housesitting for her next-door neighbor and accidentally set off the house alarm. She was really shaken up and teetering on the precipice of outrage because, can you even believe the cops would treat her like a suspect—sit her on the curb and demand to see her identification—her, a middle-aged, middle-class woman from suburbia in a tie-dye t-shirt?! Who could possibly think she, of all people, was a criminal?? This is my friend, and I began to feel angry for her. How stressful to go through that!

I went to the man I was dating (who is now my husband) to unload this anger I felt for my friend. Surely, he would also be outraged, as a law enforcement officer himself. He took the time to explain the cop view of what had happened, and it made so much sense I went back to my friend and explained it to her. She and I were both sort of blown away by the whole perspective shift, I think it made both of us even more supportive of the police. Here’s what he had to say: Those cops didn’t know my friend. Criminals don’t look any certain way. If someone set off our house alarm, I’d want the police to take the time to question that person until it was determined to be my neighbor. Police deal with the worst people in society on a daily basis (and it would be extraordinarily biased to assume that the worst people of society look any certain way). Because of day after day of dealing with terrible people, police don’t have the luxury of assuming you are not a terrible person. It’s often safer for them to assume everyone they meet is a terrible person until proven otherwise.

I don’t know a single cop who chose a career in law enforcement because they hate people and want control and power. Every cop I’ve ever met became a cop because they wanted to make a difference in their community. Bad cops become bad cops because they are not equipped to handle the stress of dealing with terrible people day after day. I’m sure there are some terrible people who become cops, but that is definitely a small minority of them. Most of them believe in law and order. Nobody hates a bad cop like a good cop. 

When I met my husband, the fact that he was in law enforcement made me love him even more. My husband did not become a cop out of some macho power trip. He became a cop because he has a strong moral compass—he knows right from wrong more than anyone I’ve ever met. He’s taught me more in our years together than anyone else in my life. I’m so proud to be his wife, I want to wear a shirt with his face on it, but I can’t because there is a war on cops. We don’t hide my husband is in law enforcement, but we don’t announce it either. We are very careful who we elaborate to, and most people who ask me, “What does your husband do?” might hear anything from a vague non-answer to a flat-out lie (I usually tell people my husband is a mailman if I don’t get a good vibe from them when I first meet them). 

We’ve had to "train" our children to be careful about who they talk to about their daddy being a policeman, and that breaks my heart. Their daddy is their hero and they’re proud of him, but in order for all of us to be a little safer we have to find age-appropriate ways to explain to them why they can’t tell everyone they meet what he does for a living. We are very careful because you never know who has felt that misplaced outrage that my friend felt, and you never know who is related to some criminal that my husband might have arrested. Trust fund Millennials and Gen Z-ers have never seen firsthand what the police do “behind the scenes” to keep their communities safe.

Imagine going to your job tomorrow and having someone shoving their phone in your face so they can record your every move while others hurls curses and epithets at you for merely doing your job. Imagine having to make split-second decisions in sometimes life-or-death situations, and often having the entire community (who, as a collective, has no idea what it feels like to be in a physical fight or to have their life truly in jeopardy) sit back and Monday morning quarterback every decision you made in the span of ten seconds. Now imagine that any of the people you deal with on a daily basis (maybe you’re doing their taxes or ringing up their groceries or putting a new roof on their house) could flip out on you and hit you, kick you, spit on you, or even potentially kill you. It’s difficult to imagine, isn’t it? Most of us don’t have to deal with that particular kind of stress in our day-to-day lives. Most of us have the luxury of not having to know or see the things my husband knows and has seen. 

My husband has arrested mothers who were trying to sell their young children into prostitution for drug money. My best friend’s husband was there to watch my cousin have a mental snap and commit suicide by shooting himself. Mangled bodies in horrific car accidents. Domestic violence and rape victims. Murders and suicides. Child sex trafficking. Police deal with the absolute worst parts of our world on an hourly basis and we still expect them to be emotionally well-balanced and productive members of society, all while we call them pigs, berate them for the choices they make, and stigmatize them for seeking therapy. We expect them to treat those of us who are not criminals as though we are the salt of the earth, even though they rarely deal with innocent, law-abiding citizens in a professional capacity (and, if we’re being truly honest, most of us have good intentions, but few of us come close to actually being the salt of the earth). We have all these expectations even as we yell to cut their funding. Funding for vital things like personal safety gear, body cams, and training that can save not only police lives, but lives of the community. 

I asked my husband, “What’s the one thing you wish the general public understood about law enforcement?” He thought for a moment and quietly said, “That they don’t know at all.” I’ve tried to sit quietly by and focus on keeping my kids and husband safe and happy while supporting my husband and his coworkers. I’ve said extra prayers for the safety of all police every single day. I’ve never let my husband leave for work without hugging and kissing him and telling him I love him, and then silently saying a prayer that St. Michael will be with my husband to make sure he comes home to us. I’ve spent hours pacing the floor, watching the news, and obsessively checking my phone because I haven’t heard from him for hours. 

I answer every call that comes into my phone when my husband is at work because I never know if it’s going to be The Call. I’ve tried my best to mentally and emotionally prepare myself should that day ever come, even though I know all the preparation I’ve tried to do will fall woefully short if my worst fears are ever realized. I’ve been quiet because my husband has asked me to—don’t cause a scene and draw more attention to the fact that he’s law enforcement. Just be quietly supportive behind the scenes. It is getting more and more difficult to keep quiet with every day that I see my own relatives shouting that all cops are racist bigots (a bigoted claim in and of itself) and they should be defunded. 

I was willing to talk and listen. Find some common ground and understanding. The more you yell, the more I am going to dig in my heels. You see, the other thing you don’t seem to understand is the tenacity and fierce protectiveness of the law enforcement wife. I will not have a relationship with anyone who wishes my husband harm. I even cut ties with a sibling because of this. I stand firmly behind my husband and all other good police officers. Yes, I chose to marry a cop. Yes, he and all these other cops chose a career that potentially has some dire consequences because they want to make a positive impact in their society. Does that mean they deserve the abuse they get? Or does that mean they deserve a little extra respect for doing a job you most certainly do not want to do? You decide.

By: Megan, who asked I share no more than her first name. 
We spoke on Facebook, after she read one of my articles. She told me about this letter, which I offered to publish here. Hope you enjoyed this article!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Looking forward to reading your comment! Side note: If you are using Safari to read/comment, you will have troubles commenting. Use Google Chrome for comments!