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How To Love Your Cop
How To Love Your Cop

Why We Avoid Community

On Wednesday I held the first meeting of my new peer group. I invited several local police wives to join me once a week to go through A CHiP on my Shoulder chapter by chapter.

We enjoyed some goodies, introduced ourselves, talked about the purpose and the rules, and basically learned who each other were. Amidst the different personalities, we found lots in common, even down to the specific way each other eats. Toward the end of the meeting, one girl expressed her relief that everyone was so chill. Others agreed – they stepped in the door apprehensive to the drama they’d seen created with other women – and were relieved.

I got to thinking about this.

I’ve been in peer groups continuously since college. I’ve really gelled with some, not so much with others. At times, the drama was so thick it took over my life. I’ve seen women get downright ugly, or get spun off on something trivial. I have seen pettiness, selfishness, and conflict, but I have also experienced love, support, and encouragement. Each group is different, and each group will have its negatives and positives.

It is human nature. In the human race, there is diversity of backgrounds, of culture, of personalities, diversity of hurts, and trigger points and their responses. Relationships with peers run the gamut of amazing to horrible.

I’ve been in a group with other writers for over ten years now. Several of us have been there since the beginning – before any of us were published. We dreamed together, hurt together with each setback, had to change with each other through the changes of publishing and social media. We had to grow through conflict, and choose to celebrate when others were succeeding while we were not. I have grown in my character because of these women, and they know me – my good, my bad, and my ugly.

I don’t like conflict. I’ve spent most of my life avoiding it. But conflict has been something that has shaped my relationships like none other:

I’ve learned to listen.
I’ve learned that I’m not the only one in the world who matters.
I’ve learned to find creative solutions to problems.
I’ve learned to pray.
I’ve learned to think before I speak.
I’ve learned that every person is hurting in some way – and I’ve learned to recognize the ways they deal with or mask that hurt. Some of those ways may be really hard to deal with in a peer group.
I’ve learned that my words and actions affect the lives of others – in healthy and unhealthy ways.
I’ve learned to love in spite of my disagreement with their actions.
I’ve learned to forgive.
I’ve learned to see other perspectives; and this has given me patience.
I’ve learned to trust, and not trust.
I’ve learned that more conflict is due to miscommunication and misunderstanding than actual deliberate behavior, and there are always two sides to a story.
I’ve learned how not to get sucked into other peoples’ irritations and rants (most of the time).
I’ve learned that conflict is an opportunity for greater understanding and cohesion.
I’ve learned that friends come in all shapes and sizes – some of my closest relationships are with those I did not initially like.

I’ve learned to be unselfish – the world does not revolve around me.

Best of all, I’ve learned to love and to be loved.

This is the reason I continue to live my life with others. This is why I am not afraid to start new peer groups. No matter the ups and downs a peer group takes, with the right attitude and leadership, there is going to be treasure found.

This is why I believe community – especially for police families – is not only a fundamental need, but a requirement.

Thinking you’d like to be brave and start up a peer group? Next week I will post some tried and true ways to create/lead/maintain a group in your area. Stay tuned!

January 17th, 2014

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Hello, My Name is Victoria

My daughter and I were watching TV together the other night. She asked me a question about the show, and I started to tear up. She gave me that teenage-are-you-really-getting-emotional-about-HGTV-Mom?-look. It’s a smirk – and from time to time I have to bare my soul and explain my thought process for things I do that they don’t understand. The kids have their chuckle, and then it’s usually, “Oh, OK, Mom, I get it now.”

I have something to confess. I REALLY like Nicole Curtis (DIY’s Rehab Addict). It’s not that she’s a little blonde bad-ass who loves power tools and runs marathons. It’s not that she’s stubborn with her vision, or that she sports a midwestern accent, or that she lives in MinneSOta. Although I like all that, too.

It’s that Nicole Curtis looks at old homes that others have deemed as doomed and is willing to put in the work to make them pretty again.

She braves old basements and salvages what she finds, then pours new foundations. She is sure to comment that working with a shovel is a great core workout.

She opens up walls to expose old brick, cleaning it up with a wire brush, and patching holes in the mortar. She designs the rooms around the brick, using it as a focal point. It’s beautiful.

She pulls up linoleum and exposes hardwood flooring, meticulously refinishing and repairing the old wood. This is the true timeless beauty of the home.

She appreciates the splendor of old things, restoring them to let them shine in their craftsmanship, and adding both old and new to give a home the best of both.

This is why I like Nicole Curtis.

So, why did I go emo on the show in front of my daughter?

Because Nicole restored a home that was damaged by arson. Crime came to a street in Detroit – her home town – and burnt it to the ground. But the fire spread to the house next door as well. And when the damage was left to become a dump site, the whole street began boarding up old homes and abandoning them.

Damaged. Devalued. Decomposing.

Ugly.

Much like the American tendency to do in our own homes. When the fires of conflict torch a home, and the damage is done, many choose to just scrap it all and walk away. But it isn’t just the lone couple that suffers. There is lasting damage that breeds more destruction to those in close proximity.

But when there is reconciliation, when a couple decides to salvage their marriage, patiently doing the work to look at both the good and the bad in their relationship, and purpose to restore it, there is something amazing that happens. There is a quality and beauty there, and a mature character that something (or someone) new just can’t measure up to.

On the show, the community came out to see what Nicole was doing. They watched intently as the heavy equipment swept away the demolished home next door. They helped clean up the yard. They helped brush away the charred remains of the fire damage. They got behind her and caught her vision. And then, in the middle of the day, kids came out to play, a go cart was put into action, and…

There was joy and life again on a street that had once brought so many tears.

Whether we’ve been married three years, twelve years, or 25 years, our marriages could use a little TLC – sprucing up what’s in good condition, getting rid of excess, and a few new changes. In my world, that’s worth shedding a few tears for.

Every January I choose a word to be my theme for the year. My word for 2014 is RESTORE. Chief and I are doing some things in our home this year, physically and relationally, to renovate, update, and restore.

I look forward to the journey.

I think our teenagers are looking forward to it as well.

January 9th, 2014

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An LEOW Thanksgiving

Over the freeway and through the neighborhood
To my mother’s house we go
A well-worn road
With kids in tow
To spend another holiday alone.

Over the freeway and through the neighborhood
To mother’s questioning eyes!
Oh, LE Wifey dear,
Why isn’t he here?
For Thanksgiving dinner here lies!

Over the freeway and through the neighborhood
Oh, how I miss him so!
I dab my eyes
And blow my nose
Then pretend, so no one knows.

Over the freeway and through the neighborhood
We pull up in the noontime sun.
We spent some time
This morning sublime
Before he put on his badge and his gun.

Over the freeway and through the neighborhood
When my family sees us arrive
They come out
With a crazy shout
Welcome, how was your drive?

Over the freeway and through the neighborhood
I inhale the baking turkey scent
I miss him so
But he had to go
On duty he must Thanksgiving spend.

Over the freeway and through the neighborhood
And then the dumb questions start
Where is he?
Again on duty?
Are you okay with holidays apart?

Over the freeway and through the neighborhood
The kids and I make do.
They run and play
With cousins all day
Yet we miss him the whole day through.

Over the freeway and into the ‘hood
He’ll keep watch over the land
While the people eat
He’ll cover his beat
So that everyone gets home as planned.

Over the freeway and into the neighborhood
We stuffed ourselves beyond right
Though it caught my eye
I declined the pie
But packed up two pieces for tonight.

Over the freeway and back to our home
I bathe the kids and put them to bed.
I hope he’s all right,
Coming home tonight
I’ll wait up for him, reading instead.

Over the freeway and back to our home
He shuffles in, his long day finally done.
I sigh with relief,
Another day of belief,
That he’ll be home before the next sun.

Into the kitchen and into my arms
I greet him with a happy kiss.
Like leather he smells
And excitedly he tells
Of a pursuit and an arrest – with bliss!

Into the pie with some whip on the top
He recants his Thanksgiving Day.
Rolling Code 3
Then tore up his knee,
Another uniform we will have to pay.

He showers, kisses kids, then heads for bed,
My eyes twinkle with pride
I cannot deny
That I love my guy
I’m his life partner, standing beside.

Happy Thanksgiving, LEO Families!

November 27th, 2013

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Two Minutes with Gilmartin

Last week I had the opportunity to attend Dr. Kevin Gilmartin’s training on Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement. It was my first time listening to him teach in person.

I was taken in with the way he presented the parts of police officers others rarely see: the biological and chemical reactions to what they are trained to do, the responses that affect their bodies short and long term, their attitudes and decisions toward the job, and their relationships at home. It was excellent information.

Here are some of my highlighted notes:

*Most officers get 4-6 hours of sleep a night, two hours less than they need.
*Sleep deprivation is a cancer risk.
*Cops are experts on the shit of life. We need to train officers to be professional cynics, not half-assed cynics who can’t turn it off.
*Cynicism is distrust of human nature and motives.
*Normal people make decisions based on probability. Cops make decisions based on possibility.
*Trust to an officer is naïve risk-taking.
*Cops die 19 years earlier than they should – because of the hypervigilance rollercoaster and the long-term affects it has on their bodies.
*We lose 484 officers a year to suicide.
*Firemen face risk for small portions of their shifts. Cops face potential risk their entire shift.
*Fire is a team-based trust profession. Policing is an individual-based distrust profession.
*Law enforcement culture doesn’t talk about the affects of carbohydrates or low levels of cortisol, but then we joke about donuts and bury them early.
*The hypervigilance rollercoaster produces cops that are emotionally over-invested at work, and emotionally under-invested at home.
*To break the cycle of the rollercoaster, the officer needs to get off his ass, exercise a half hour a day, eat right, and intentionally invest in other roles of his life.

Then, at lunchtime, I took the opportunity to talk with Dr. Gilmartin. The exchange was maybe two minutes.

But it rocked my world.

Let me back up a bit. When I spoke in Canmore, Alberta a month ago, one of the gals presented information from Gilmartin’s book. She gave a great summary of hypervigilance, which is the biological process a peace officer undergoes while on duty, which heightens their awareness, thinking abilities, and quick response to anything that comes up. She explained that once the shift is over, their bodies need to recover, which means off-duty, their bodies go into a exact opposite/depression-like state to offset the affects of the body while in hypervigilance (Gilmartin calls this the Hypervigilance Biological Rollercoaster.) After her presentation, the LEOWs had several questions, mainly about how to explain and train their children to understand and accept this phenomena. I told them I would see Dr. Gilmartin in November, and would ask him exactly that.

I approached Gilmartin, armed with my innocent question. His response stopped me in my heels.

“Kids should not even be aware of hypervigilance,” He asserted. He then shifted and sort of sighed, “Spouses can be the biggest enablers…”

I didn’t hear anything after that.

Enablers?

There was, by then, a crowd that had gathered. I saw the look on the gal’s face next to me. It was a wince. I felt my insides turn, so I muttered something about thanks and excused myself. Then, for the next three hours of traffic-laden processing and a tearful conversation with Chief, I realized something.

I’d used hypervigilance as an excuse for some of the bad habits in our home.

And not only was I not engaged in the fight against hypervigilance, I’d actually resigned myself to it, and joined in with both feet.

For quite some time now.

And I’ve been believing, talking about and teaching that we need to understand who our officers are, how the job affects them, and then deal with it. I’ve not understood the entire picture.

I need to understand so that I can not just deal with it, or make excuses for it, but rather join in on the solutions. I am the heart of my home, and my husband’s best friend. I’ve declared I’m his backup at home – and the biological effects of hypervigilance take place at home. Gilmartin didn’t write his book so that we could just understand it and let it take its course. Gilmartin wrote his book so that we could understand it, and join in the FIGHT to CHANGE it.

My husband’s health – physically, emotionally, and relationally – depends on it.

His actual LIFE depends on it.

He has his brothers and sisters on duty that have his back should something go crazy. But at home, there are still dangers that lurk within his very body that threaten his life.

Is there any more important backup than that?

So, as his backup at home:

I can fix healthy meals to help my officer to FIGHT against the affects on his weight…

I can leave Oreos and Doritos and Jack Daniels on the shelf at the store…

I can exercise with my officer so that he swings back into a normal level…

I can make sure he gets the sleep he needs…

I can motivate (without nagging) my officer to turn off the computer/TV to wrestle with the kids, or go to church, or coach his son’s baseball team, or to get out in the yard (together) and make it pretty again…

I can live and operate with the realization that my officer is a cop, but that is not the only thing he is. He is a husband, a father, a son, a coach, a friend, a board member, an outdoorsman, and he has much to offer our family, and our community…

So that his kids will never know about hypervigilance.

November 22nd, 2013

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Chp 10: Little Future Cops-Dads and their kids

Dads Need Their Kids

When Brent became a highway patrolman, I was the one who comforted him when he came home. But after we started having children, I noticed a little shift. It seemed to me that he was more excited to see them than me when he came home. I used to get a little jealous, but then I decided to grow up.

I’ve come to understand that my husband needs and feeds off of his kids. He needs their optimism. He needs their innocence. He sees in them that there is good in the world, and it’s worth fighting for. I know that may sound a little dramatic, but it’s true. He may not even realize it. But coming home and holding his baby girl or wrestling on the floor with his boys—my husband needs this. Chances are so does yours.

Almost every day, year after year, there has been a wrestling session at our home. It started when our oldest daughter could crawl. Brent tackled her—lovingly, of course—and she would laugh until her belly hurt. It’s continued through the years, and now we have to clear a large space, as the legs and arms are much longer, but the laughter still rings through the halls. I call it wrestle therapy, and Brent needs it just as much as the kids.

But I’ve always been the stick in the mud. I’m the one who’s moving the vase or scolding when it gets too rough. And they laugh at me and sometimes pull me in against my will. Usually it ends with my stomach aching because I can’t stop laughing. So, let them wrestle. Let them throw footballs (soft ones) in at least one room of the house. Let them cuddle past bedtime. It is good for our husbands’ souls, and it helps to balance out the harder parts of his job. The kids love it too.

 

On the Other Hand…

There are other seasons in a law enforcement career that aren’t so great for kids. Sometimes your husband will need some quiet, alone time. When he’s had a really bad day, he might not be able to handle the chaos that kids create. Several of my law enforcement friends have told me that they have had to take the kids somewhere else or send their husbands to the gym. Being quick to anger, irritable, or just in his own little world is a reality at some point. Unfortunately this can be really hurtful to the children who don’t understand.

That’s where we come in. Our husbands need a little space, exercise, time, or sleep to get back on track. We can create room for this, depending on our creativity and our attitudes. If we’re full of resentment, our kids will pick up on it and be resentful. If we are patient, our kids will try to be patient. If we give him a little room for moods, it won’t be so traumatic for the kids. Then, when he’s calmed down a bit, you and the kids can engage him in the family goings on.

It’s important to communicate to your kids, no matter what the age, what is going on. For little ones you can tell them that Daddy’s had a bad day, and he needs some time to deal with it. For older kids you can give a little more detail, as appropriate. But the attitude is support and love, not condemnation. We all have moods from time to time, and home is the best place to work through them, especially if we give each other the space to do it.

November 3rd, 2013

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Chp 10: Little Future Cops-Gun Safety

When our oldest son was little, we got a kick out the way he tied his cuddle blanket around his neck, made guns out of whatever was around, and ran off to fight the bad guys. When Brent’s leather holders for badges and guns were retired, our son appointed himself heir to them. Then as he got older, it was Nerf guns and laser tag. At times our home was converted into a war zone, with the screens taken out of the windows, the lights out, and sweaty boys hiding, shooting foam darts at each other, and leaping in and out of the house through the windows—serious fun. Finally he progressed to Air Soft guns and paintball as a teenager. He and his buddies found empty fields with lots of bushes, trees, and ditches and got down and dirty, strategizing all the way. I think he even borrowed some of Brent’s old Kevlar panels and eye gear to protect himself from welts.

As you can see, we have a relaxed view of guns in our family. But that doesn’t mean we don’t take gun safety seriously. When Brent brings his duty weapon home, he keeps it secure and teaches the kids about how the gun works and the correct way to handle it. He also cleans his weapon at work. There is an attitude of respect, not making a big deal out of it, but rather stressing the importance of keeping it pointed away from everyone even when it is unable to fire. The kids know that they are never to handle it by themselves and under no circumstances with another child. This would never happen anyway; Brent keeps his gun with him and will leave it in his locker at work more often than not.

If your home has other weapons, though, it is imperative that you get a safe that is childproof. We all know of a tragic story or two where accidents have happened. Kids can be unpredictable even when we train them. Talk with your kids about guns at friends’ homes as well or if someone brings a weapon to school. They may respect your rules at home, but their curiosity may get the best of them somewhere else. We also use news of gun accidents to remind them of what to do in these situations.

Guns aren’t the only thing we need to think about. Kids also need to understand that they don’t want to get into the pepper spray, Taser gun, or the handcuffs. One afternoon Brent laid his gun belt on the bed right beside me, and our youngest son asked to see the handcuffs. Brent got them out and gave them to him. But before we could say anything, he put them on himself and started laughing. Until he realized that Brent’s handcuff keys were at the office, forty minutes away! It took some rummaging through the junk drawers and a call to a cop neighbor before we finally found an extra key. Our son doesn’t go near the handcuffs anymore. Sometimes natural consequences cure whatever foolishness our kids dish up.

October 27th, 2013

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Chp 10: Little Future Cops-Kid Communication

Kid Communication

Kendra’s six-year-old son knew Daddy went to work to arrest bad guys. Diedra and her husband sat their boys down at the ages of twelve and ten and had a heart to heart about what Dad’s job entailed. Betty’s eight- and nine-year-old kids watched their daddy on television during a standoff. I have been asked over and over, what are the guidelines for letting our kids know what their daddy does? How much information is okay and when?

As I’ve thought about this question, I’ve realized that there’s no right answer. It really depends on the relationship you have with your kids, what you think they can handle at what age. I don’t remember ever sitting our children down to have a heart to heart about Daddy’s job. If they had questions, we provided an age-appropriate response. We didn’t offer more than what we thought they could handle at the time but made sure we answered their questions truthfully. I don’t remember our kids ever fearing for their dad’s safety on duty. I think this is because Brent and I never made it a habit to worry about what could happen, and they took their cues from us.

I do know that our kids suffered disappointment when Brent wasn’t there for sports games, Fourth of July fireworks, and other things that came up here and there. Over the years he’s tried to make as many events as he can, but there were times he just couldn’t be there. But if there was something important that he couldn’t make it to, we always tried to make up for it later.

When Brent was commuting to the Bay Area during the week and home on weekends only, he had to miss many kid events. Our youngest daughter was in a program through our church in which she conquered challenges weekly and received promotions in return, using a medieval theme as the backdrop. They had really great ceremonies where the child would be honored for their accomplishment. But the ceremony was on a Wednesday night. She was really sad that Dad was gone. We told her that although he wouldn’t be able to be there, we would tape it so he could see it later. What we didn’t tell her was that Brent worked out his schedule and drove back that night, arriving just in time. The look on her face when she saw him was priceless. She burst into big, happy tears and ran to hug him really tightly.

With a little planning and creativity, we can redeem the events our husbands miss. As moms, we have to lower the expectations of our kids when the career calls. But when we take the time to make special efforts to make memories, it makes up for it. In fact, these are some of the best days of their lives.

October 20th, 2013

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Chp 10: Little Future Cops: United Parenting

Mom and Dad: United Front

So, what if you have a different parenting philosophy than your husband? What if you don’t match up on the expectations of your children? Who determines what the rules will be?

Both of you do. If the two of you have different standards of behavior for your kids, nobody wins. Your kids will be confused for awhile, and then they’ll figure it out and be very smart. They will parent shop and inadvertently pit the two of you against each other. At that point it becomes a real mess. But if you and your husband have different viewpoints, you’ll do yourself a favor to unify.

Start with things you both want your children to embrace. Morals. Values. Education. Faith. The big things you both want to instill in your children. Then work from there. Look for positive ways to teach them, such as spending time and actually talking about values. When situations arise you can use them as teaching moments. How you conduct yourself in the home and with others is also instilling your values in them as they watch you. Ask yourselves, “Where are the boundaries?” and “What are the consequences of crossing those boundaries?”

Brad and Heidi valued truthfulness in their kids. They felt that if they could trust what their children said, then they could build core values on that trust. Because kids are tempted to lie, they came up with a serious consequence: it was Tabasco sauce on the tongue. Fully edible and harmless, it brought temporary pain. It was a powerful deterrent for their children, a lesson that lies cause real pain. They didn’t have much trouble with their kids telling the truth after that.

Children need to know where the boundaries are and the consequences of wandering outside those boundaries. Most law enforcement parents understand this because they administer the consequences of those who don’t have boundaries every shift. But here’s the key: children who have lovingly been given the perimeters for behavior and firm follow up to help them rely on those boundaries feel secure. It doesn’t mean they won’t try to push the limits. But it gives them peace, knowing that they have room to grow and be kids within the safety of balanced behavior. These perimeters also give the child a sense of dignity.

A couple of years ago, Brent and I had an issue with one of our teenagers. There was a breakdown in trust as boundaries were broken. For the first time, we found ourselves with different views on how to handle things. Brent took an aggressive approach, and I preferred to be more passive, seeing our child’s point of view. Both of us loved our child fiercely, but we had differences in how to respond. As the months passed and things began to improve, I realized I had taken sides with my teenager. This wasn’t wise. I could see both sides, but because I didn’t align myself completely with my husband, I caused more harm to their relationship and ours. Brent didn’t feel supported, and I think our child lost some respect for me in the process. But it’s never too late; we talked it out and realized there were more similarities than differences that we could agree and act on. The most important thing was to be unified as parents.

When you and your husband set the boundaries for your kids, respect his instincts. It’s always better to set the bar a little higher and adjust later if needed as you both grow in your parenting. Giving more privileges up front and then taking them back later causes a lot of frustration in your kids.

October 13th, 2013

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Chp 10: Little Future Cops – Being a kid of a cop

Our three boys grew up knowing the risks. We never lied to them about it, but it wasn’t what we talked about at the dinner table either. But what they also knew was that if Mom or Dad died doing the job, we’d go out with a sense of pride, purpose, and loving what it was we were doing.

Jeri, former CHP and wife of CHP[i]

 

I felt a little left out when my son became a patrolman. Suddenly he and my husband had their own little language and a camaraderie. When your kids go into law enforcement, it’s a whole different ball game.

Cassandra, wife and mother of CHP officers

 

It was a beautiful day at the park. The Easter egg hunt was over, but not all the eggs were found, so the older kids were searching the deep grass. Hot dogs sizzled on the grill. A couple of the dads were marveling together at how well the day was going.

“The kids are so well-behaved. I think it’s because we don’t let them get out of hand. They know if they misbehave, we’ll clobber them!” said one officer, laughing.

Heads nodded in agreement because we understood; most cops’ kids are held to a pretty high standard. Their dads have seen what happens out there on the street, and they don’t want their kids to become customers. Chances are that if someone else heard this conversation, they might get the wrong idea. With all of the confusion about parenting these days, there are mixed messages about what is acceptable and not acceptable. But law enforcement parents tend to lean toward a stricter standard.

 

What’s It Like To Be a Cop’s Kid?

Cops’ kids generally don’t get away with much. Police officers are trained to be able to tell when someone’s lying and their kids all the more. There’s also a network of information that gets around as well, especially in rural areas. If an officer’s kid gets into trouble, there’s a good chance he’ll find out about it.

One tendency for law enforcement parents is the need to protect. Recently we had a situation with our nineteen-year-old daughter in that she and her girlfriends befriended a boy who was very handsome and likable. Because they met him at a church youth group, the assumption was made that he was a great guy, and one of the girls developed a dating relationship with him. Then Brent found out that the boy was going to court for stealing a car and had a prior for marijuana possession. Oh, the tearful conversations we had to have with that one! We talked about boundaries with a person who engages in criminal activity even though likable and that it was a bad idea that he come to our home. She was convinced that he had changed his ways, yet Brent could tell from his excuses that he hadn’t yet experienced a turnaround. Out of respect for Brent, our daughter made a choice to distance herself from him in their group and set boundaries like not driving him places. A couple of months later, he abruptly left the group to live on the streets in another state. Hurt that he left without a word, her friends suddenly realized that hanging out with this guy wasn’t the smartest idea.

We can trust our husbands to protect our kids. But sometimes it can go too far. I had a conversation recently with an officer who’d seen a lot of death on duty. I asked him how he dealt with it. He told me that it manifested itself in being overprotective of his wife and kids. He has forbid them to go anywhere at times and won’t allow people to drive them anywhere unless he first okays it. As you can imagine, this hasn’t gone over well. Arguments ensued, and his wife thought he was being jealous. But that’s not what it was. It was his inward responses to watching people die in his arms, guarding a little girl’s dead body for hours to comfort a friend, and wiping another officer’s blood off his uniform. It was these horrible images that manifested themselves into fear for his family.

These situations are so tricky because his fear is valid. The need to control is very real and possibly the only thing he can do to ensure the safety of his loved ones. But it’s also problematic. The answer here is to recognize the reasons for the behavior and work from there to communicate. Your officer needs to be validated and respected in the process, and together you can move toward a workable solution.

Appearance may be a big deal to a police parent as well. Earrings, tattoos, baggy pants, and hairstyles matter to police officers. I’ve listened to several of our non-law enforcement friends talk about not making a big deal out of phases their kids go through. But police officers make judgments every shift about people they deal with on the street. Their lives can depend on it. They are looking for signs of criminal behavior and if the individual has a weapon. There are clues they look for in clothing and behavior, and some of these same clues may appeal to our own kids at some point. But law enforcement parents just don’t want their kids even remotely resembling the people they put in jail.

 


[i]     Correspondence, Code 3 Magazine, (Spring 2007).

October 6th, 2013

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Below 100: Officer Safety 101

On Monday I drove my little Prius to the Bay Area to attend a Below 100 Training. This is the third such training I’ve sat through, and it gets me every time.

Below 100 is a campaign to bring our national on-duty death toll down from 140-160 a year to below 100. By simply reminding peace officers of the five tenets of officer safety, perhaps there will be more officers going home to their families. That’s the goal – to bring our officers home at the end of each shift. Because we spouses benefit from such a campaign, I support Below 100 with every fiber of my being. Keeping families intact and thriving includes keeping our officers alive!

The first tenet of Below 100 is Wear Your Belt. Not the gunbelt, but the seatbelt. This seems to be number one because so many officers don’t wear their seatbelts in the patrol car. It is perhaps the hardest tenet to follow, because police culture, even some departmental training, stands by the belief that wearing a seatbelt will inhibit easy departure from the vehicle. It may or may not be true most of the time (how long does it take to take it off and is it worth that to put yourself at risk), but when the patrol car suddenly loses control, the occupants will have an easier departure from the vehicle than they would like. Many of our on-duty traffic fatalities are because the officer is not wearing a seatbelt and they are ejected or thrown violently into the windshield.

The second tenet is Wear Your Vest. My husband came on at a time in CHP history where the vest was beginning to be worn in the Academy. They were trained to put it on as a piece of equipment – as necessary as the gun or badge. My husband wears his vest even today as a Chief – even though he doesn’t pull people over anymore. Some departments don’t even issue a vest as part of the uniform. On Monday I listened to my friend Gene, a retired CHP officer, talk about surviving a n incident where the criminal tried to finish him off by shooting him point blank in the back. We sat riveted as he recounted his story of survival and saw pictures of the vest. The vest was toast, but Gene was very much alive.

The third tenet is Watch Your Speed. Why do cops speed? Because they can! Our officers love to drive fast – but time and again, speeding to something that they really don’t need to has resulted in accidents that cause extreme hardship on the officer, other officers, and/or Joe Citizens. At the training, we watched as an officer speeding to a stolen car incident took out a kid on a bike and killed him. Trust me, that was difficult to watch. And then we listened to the officer get into the car and start crying like a baby. For good reason.

The fourth is WIN – What’s important now. This is a reminder to think on duty. Making choices to keep situational awareness for the task at hand. Approaching a car on the safest side depending on traffic (CHP approaches cars on the passenger side to keep themselves from getting hit by distracted motorists), making sure there is adequate safety for deploying spike strips, and other safety concerns while policing.

The last tenet of Below 100 is Complacency Kills. This is the reminder to our officers to keep alert. After day after day of routine policing, there can be a tendency to settle into that routine and be caught unawares by something dangerous. We watched a video of an interview with one of our CHP widows. She said that the day her husband was killed on duty, she had been spooked by another LODD a few days earlier and told her husband to be careful. His answer – “Don’t worry, honey! I’m invincible!” Other than a goodbye, that was the last thing he said to her.

We as spouses are very much affected by this campaign. Already there are stories that are coming forward that this training has saved lives. Kids have their parents, spouses have their officers, mothers have their kids because we are intentionally reminding our officers to be safe. You and I, too, can add a little reminder here and there as our officers head out the door to keep the peace.

It just might save their lives.

For more information on Below 100, visit Below100.com.

October 3rd, 2013

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