It was June 2, 2020, and I was two hours from the end of my shift. That’s when a supervisor informed me I was being forced to assist with a protest at a seaside town 25 miles away. Now, protests against the police are common occurrences, but the one I was called to that day was the first in our area.
I texted my wife that I wouldn’t be home on time because of the protest, and she responded, “OK, I love you and be safe.”
The protest went OK, and I returned home around 11 p.m. I was greeted at the door by my wife wearing a cast on a broken foot. My wife started to cry and explained that she had been in an accident and her car was totaled. The accident happened because she was hysterically crying while driving and rear-ended someone. She was blinded with tears because she feared something would happen to me or my fellow officers. My first reaction was anger. I couldn’t believe she didn’t call me. I quickly learned my wife dealt with the matter on her own because she didn’t want me distracted and needed to ensure I stayed focused. A year later, she needs to have surgery because of my job. What?!
I share that story with you because it’s an unfortunate example of what LEO families endure every day — the unspoken and unknown. The past year put our families to the test and it’s an overlooked burden.
Before COVID shut everything down in 2020, I attended an officer health and wellness conference. A husband-and-wife duo spoke candidly about the stressors of the job and how it impacted their lives. The woman’s husband, a now-retired captain, was involved in three shootings during his career. She vaguely knew the details of one particular shooting and how it occurred in an alley after a vile struggle. She recalled a date night where they were walking back to their car down an alley, and she suddenly froze. She became overwhelmed and paralyzed with fear because that alley mirrored the alley she had imagined from her husband’s fight for his life.
My older brother is a detective sergeant and has been on the job a lot longer than me. Honestly, I wouldn’t be in this career if it weren’t for him (thanks a lot). Just recently, I was having a discussion with my mother about the job.
She told me every time a cruiser goes flying by her with lights and sirens, she has to pull over because she’s overwhelmed with anxiety. Anxiety because it’s a physical reminder of what her sons do for a living and the dangers we face every day.
In the academy, they don’t tell you that your siblings, spouse, children and parents all signed up for the ride, too. They have a front-row seat to all the good, the bad and the ugly.
Recently, the profession has made strides in helping officers mitigate the stressors of the job, but what is being done to help our families?
A mentor of mine was involved in a shooting. Later that night, he was dropped off back at home to his wife and kids. What about those kids? What about what they saw and their feelings about their dad being brought home and out of work because he had to take someone’s life to save his own? What are we doing as a profession to help the people we care most about? How do we help them navigate the ripple effect of our career?
How about the kid whose mother or father is a police officer who he/she is supremely proud of? How is that child supposed to handle all the anti-police rhetoric at school and on social media? If they openly express their support for mom or dad, there are very real consequences in this current climate.
Who picks the kids up from practice because you’re stuck at a late DOA or a last-minute search warrant? Family. They’re always at the forefront of our bullshit whether they like it or not. It’s time we celebrate their courage and acknowledge their sacrifice.
I ask these questions and share these stories with you because they’re powerful and real. They speak volumes and shed a bright light on the people we need most. We are not in this profession alone and will never stop it from affecting our families. We can, however, acknowledge it and dialogue. I encourage you to have fruitful discussions with your loved ones. We may not all wear the uniform, but we all feel the weight of the badge.