When the rumors become dangerous
It was Monday evening and I just got home from picking my kids up at daycare. They were sitting quietly on the couch together playing with their LeapPad and I was checking Facebook while the oven was preheating. My husband was almost done with his 12 hour shift. Today was a tough day. By 8am I was already emotionally drained because less than 24 hours before, five police officers across the country were shot. Five in 24 hours. Three of which were targeted while sitting in their patrol cars or at a traffic stop. These senseless acts of violence were committed just because of their profession. Because of the badge they wear. Off and on all day my mind would go THERE. My husband, the father of my kids. What if? That familiar pit—the one I feel every time an officer is killed--would develop in my stomach and I would try and force myself to concentrate on something else. Anything else.
This has been my reality for 10 years. I fell in love with a man who was called to be a police officer since he was a little boy. When we started dating, he was working as a Community Service Officer for a large suburb Northwest of Minneapolis. A year before we got married he was sworn in as a police officer for a North metro Minnesota county. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. No idea.
When it becomes real
My husband and I were lying in bed one morning and I noticed a small bruise had developed under his eye. He had underplayed the extent of a call he had a few days prior where he fought with a man that was threatening people with a large knife. In the end, he was ok, the bad guy went to jail and the family who called the police that day were grateful that they were no longer in danger. We know about these good things that the officers do, and they do them every day. These good acts rarely make headlines, and frankly, the officers wouldn’t want them to. Most are humble and do this job because they were called to do it.
Over the last couple of years we have seen a change in how law enforcement officers have been portrayed in the media, on social media and even in talks around the water cooler. The protests came, tempers flared and suddenly the general public became experts on police tactics and believe they knew exactly what happened on each incident that made the news. Monday morning quarterback: Law enforcement edition. Hearing and seeing the criticism constantly was hard. Very hard. However, I can deal with that. One thing I’ve grown over my 10 years as a police wife is emotional armor. You rely on it every time they come home and tell you about a death they had to deal with, another abused child, a suicide or when you see that social media post from your friend about how the police are racist as*holes.
When the armor cracks
Each time I hear about a police officer killed in the line of duty my armor breaks a little. Over the last couple years, a lot of cracks have formed in it. Too many officers have been ambushed and shot. Too many have become targets of the false narrative that police are the bad guys. I’ve cried alone several times so that my kids, even my husband, don’t see my armor crack. The law enforcement community feels and mourns each death because we know that we could just as easy be that next family. We even plan for it. Each officer needs to fill out an End of Watch packet. When you die or are injured in the line of duty, what are your final wishes? “Well,” I’ve read, “that’s what they signed up for.” Wrong. They signed up to make a difference in their communities, and they do everyday. That is what they signed up for.
To say that the law enforcement community is one big family is an understatement. In many ways the support is out of necessity, and even sometimes sanity. Police officers deal with a lot of darkness and evil in this world so you don’t have to. As the Lino Lakes, Minnesota police department said in one of their social media posts recently, “Unfortunately not everything that we do is fun, and many times our interactions with people happen to be on their darkest days.”
I don’t ever expect the general public—those not connected to law enforcement—to understand all that is involved in police work. However, my wish is that you will stop before posting or passing on that hateful or unconfirmed article about law enforcement. Like any rumor, take a little time to think critically before rushing to judgement. There is a real person behind that badge with a real family, and their life may just depend on it.
About the blogger: A proud Minnesota police wife, mother of two kiddos and one sweet golden retriever. Jennifer draws her strength from God, loves chocolate and has been involved with BtBL for 5 years.