Category Archives: law enforcement

A civilian’s look at police after Boston.

I’m talking about the words of The Wise Guy, who has written about his change in perspective thanks to the actions of Richard Donohue and Sean Collier during the Boston Marathon bombing. (As a reminder, Donohue was critically wounded and even died for 45 minutes, while Collier was killed in a shootout with Tsarnev earlier that day.) You can read it here: The Next Time You Think “I Don’t Like Cops”

Now, obviously if you’re here, you’re in one of two camps on police: love ’em or hate ’em. (I’m in the former, which I guess you could figure out.) But the written expression by a civilian, otherwise uninvolved with officers, is powerful to me. Not only is it amazing to read about a civilian showing respect for an officer anymore, it’s so heart-warming to know someone is actively and openly talking about it. That’s how word is spread – someone has to start the conversation.

If you’re a LEOW like me, don’t be surprised if you break into tears, like I did. All I can say to The Wise Guy is Thank You. Thank you for being brave enough to share a publically averse opinion so eloquently – like the officers that we love so much do every day.

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That lonesome feeling…

I have heard many LEOWs talk about being “married single,” the idea being that we are often left to our own devices to raise our children and socialize with our friends while our husbands are on shift, or training. I didn’t understand it quite as well when 354 and I were courting. How could I, when even though we basically lived together, we still had separate lives? After we got married, it became clearer. Married but not getting half as much time together as an average couple, having to fight to spend quality time together, having to adjust (and fast) to the stress of the job as it affected our relationship. With him on nights, it was exponentially harder – a newlywed couple, hardly together unless you counted being in the same house as “together.” He slept while I worked, and I slept (mostly) while he worked, only seeing each other in passing from one shift to another. There were nights I didn’t sleep, up worried because of the call he was on, while the dogs huddled around the bed as they sensed my worry. There were more times spent in anger or frustration that should have been spent in partnership or in discussion. I wasn’t the best wife – I never considered myself the best candidate for marriage in the first place – and I didn’t try very hard to compromise at first. There was a turning point, where both of us said and did things we knew we would regret, and we did, and we apologized. It’s hard enough to be married; it’s so many times harder to be married to someone in public safety. Human nature already makes marriage hard. The job makes it harder.

We spent almost two years out of public safety, as civilians. After he applied, and was accepted, to his current department, things went back to our normal. I’ve gotten used to having the bed to myself more often than not, which is only convenient since I have to get up at least once to feed the baby. I’ve gotten used to trying to do our chores and my projects around him asleep in our part of the house, which was easier when it was just us and the dogs (or maybe it was easier when I had almost an entire house to myself). I’m still getting used to having a car to myself again, and the ability to go places almost whenever and wherever I need or want to.

I feel the same sense of loss from my husband now that I did when we were first married, with the presence of our son in our lives. I understand more readily being married single, now that I experience it as a young mother and LEOW. My husband obviously loves our son, but there’s not much for him to do while Little Man is still… little. And worse than that, not that he means to spend so much time away at work, or asleep in the bed, but there are so many others in the home that are raising his son while he’s patrolling. We live with his parents until we get our feet under us, and a place of our own. There are always a pair of hands looking to take the responsibility of caring for our son – out of love, thankfully – when it should be me and my husband raising our child. Instead, it’s me and his parents and his aunt and uncle, with 354 kind of in the background. And it makes me sad to see him with Little Man, knowing how much he loves his boy, and knowing that the only time he gets to spend with him is the short time between sleep and shift.

It’s like being a part of two different households – two ships passing in the night, to borrow the cliche. I never knew how hard it was to be the LEO mom until now, and I suppose that’s a given. How can you know unless you’ve been there?

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A slew of LODD… How do you cope?

Today, Branding Nielsen and Jeremy Triche were shot and killed. Michael Scott Boyington and Jason Triche were wounded in a related incident. All four are deputies in St. John’s the Baptist Parish, Louisiana. Five suspects are in custody for the “ambush-style” attack in a Valero refinery parking lot.

Three days ago, a Brazos County, Texas constable was killed serving an eviction notice near Texas A&M. Brian Bachmann was 10-42, headed home to his family, and took the notice for another officer. Three other officers were wounded in the shootout. The suspect was killed.

67 officers have been killed in the line of duty, to date, in 2012. That’s obviously down from 2011, but it seems more lately that these LODDs are targeted murders of LEOs, not “occupational hazards.” Less traffic stops gone bad, and more IEDs strategically placed for maximum damage. I’m not saying that makes it worse, or that anyone should expect to die on a traffic stop any more than at a standoff with an armed suspect, but people are getting scarier by the hour. And I’m watching my husband walk out the door and drive away, knowing the possibilities.

I read about these officers like Triche and Bachman, and think of their wives getting that knock at the door. Sometimes, I think of what it would be like to be that woman, and feel ashamedly, blessedly glad that I’m not. I could be. Any of us could be “that wife,” the one who lost her husband in a gunfight with a repeat offender, or in a high speed pursuit of a DV suspect with his kids in the backseat. Thanks to God, my husband comes home and kisses our son on the forehead, me on the cheek and lips before he goes to bed.

I read about these men (and women) who are killed on the job and feel distantly sad, as if a small part of me has gone with them. We are a family, all of us on the blue line, mo matter how far apart. And yet the more I read, the more distant it feels. The guilt for feeling that way builds. These people died protecting me, just like soldiers overseas. Shouldn’t I feel more than this? Shouldn’t I be doing something about it, in my community, somewhere? They left behind families, children, parents who loved them and will never get to hug them until they all get to Heaven. How is that fair? And why don’t I feel more for their deaths than a distant ache?

I know if I cried over every LODD, if I mourned every on duty fatality, I would never get off the floor. It would paralyze me. Maybe my husband has worn off on me more than I thought. Maybe my faith is stronger than I know. Last week, I got a text from 354:

Hey I’m out on an IED call I’m 10 4 waiting on EOD call when I’m clear DO NOT CALL ME I will call you I love yall 10000s

A younger me would have chewed her fingers off with worry. When we were first married, there were nights I literally couldn’t sleep, knowing the calls he was on and the nights he patrolled. I stayed awake in the bed, waiting for him to pull in the carport, and fell asleep curled up against him. The woman I am now read that text, bit her lip, refused to worry, and prayed for his safety. I got a call a few hours later – EOD showed up and were working the call, he was fine but he was busy and would see us when he got home. Three years ago, I couldn’t have gone to bed knowing he was on a bomb call. Now, I rocked my son to sleep, said another prayer, and crawled into bed. 354 woke me up the next morning when he collapsed into bed beside me.

I don’t know if feeling distant at these LEOs is healthy, or wrong of me. I do the best I can. I am trying to make a difference in my community, sometimes in the name of those who died trying to protect it and sometimes in support of the ones they left behind. We never think it could happen to us. But it does. It has to happen to somebody, and we should feel something, however small, when it does.

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Not Murphy’s Law; maybe Army Law.

A combination of “Hurry Up and Wait,” which I’m told is unofficially the true U.S. Army slogan, and “Everything Will Be On Hold Until It All Happens At Once.” It seems to be the thing, especially in the past couple of weeks.

Sunday week ago, I wrecked our Crown Vic. Totaled it, as a matter of fact. If it wasn’t for the pine tree at the top of the embankment, I would have rolled completely. 354 was supposed to be gone on two jobs out of state for the week; I had, as a matter of fact, just dropped him off to leave. As it was, he stayed in town. We had an appointment Wednesday, with all expectations of being in the hospital that afternoon and a baby in arm by Thursday.

Our expectations got shot down Wednesday afternoon after the results of the amniocentesis came back negative – lungs too immature to induce, come back next week – and I spent the rest of the day in a mild depressive state combined with discomfort from a pissed off kid and a disgruntled uterus. I stayed in bed and got up only when I was forced, out of awkward social necessity, to attend church that evening.

BUT that was the only bad part of the week. We sold the Crown and my POS Grand Cherokee, and put that cash to a down payment on another vehicle – a family truck, an ’02 Expedition, with enough room for the kid, the dogs and whatever else we decide to pack in it. 354 got in touch with a captain in one of the departments he had applied with over a month ago, and found out where his application had disappeared to (not file 13, thankfully). And despite getting put on standby for a week with regard to the arrival of the boy, he is more than healthy, still plenty large and growing, with a good strong heartbeat.

This week has been quieter, which has been a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it’s given us time to finish the nursery (yes, finish) and prepare the truck, get the house ready, and do… whatever else needs done. 354 has heard back from more than one department, all wanting to know (months later, thankyou) if he was still interested in a position. We’re waiting on good things from one of them soon. We got a good report from the doctor on Wednesday, and they gave us an induction date. So here I am, sitting in a hospital bed in a very comfortable room, getting ready to change my life for the better, forever. Hooked up to monitors, got an IV ready for tomorrow…

Hurry up, and wait.

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Shocking News! Police are people, too.

I love it when people take precious time to inform me that all police are assholes/thieves/power-mongers that only write tickets for a power jag; waste gas and taxpayer money by riding around aimlessly or sitting at the department; got into the job for the gun and badge; and so on. Usually, these are the same people that ask for a favor from my husband (no matter what jurisdiction they are/were in compared to his) once they find out he’s a cop. The same self-important assholes that rail against how unfair their ticket was, they were only going 68 in a 45, how dare that smug sonovabitch waste their time, don’t they know there are people out there shooting up gas stations?! The same self-righteous SOBs who explain that they were unfairly arrested a month or so ago when they only had a couple of drinks, that road sign had to have been new, and that trooper was hiding in the median – and wants to know if my husband might could get the charge reduced, even though my husband is a city officer and has no state jurisdiction, because all cops must know each other on an intimate personal basis.

Guess what, you self-satisfied jackwagon: if you didn’t break the law, my husband (and all his brothers and sisters in law enforcement) wouldn’t have jobs to do. So I guess I should thank you, my dear, for making sure my husband is employed. Continue reading

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In the event of death.

On March 22, 2011, two Athens-Clarke County police officers were shot in the line of duty, following a lead on a kidnapping and carjacking by a subject known to them. Senior Police Officer Tony Howard was shot in the face and shoulder, underwent surgery, and has since returned to work, though not patrol. Senior Police Officer Elmer “Buddy” Christian died on the scene, killed before he could even open the door to his patrol car, shot through his driver’s side window by the fleeing suspect. Four days later, the subject surrendered under a blanket of television cameras and microphones, reveling in his newfound publicity as a cop-killer. Thousands of people turned out for SPO Christian’s funeral, lining miles of road between the ceremony and the cemetery to pay their respects to the horse-drawn hearse draped in the American flag; and the mourning family that followed behind, including SPO Christian’s wife, Melissa, and their two young children.

We were living out of state at the time of the tragedy, and I remember following the unfolding drama as best I could on my iPhone, through the ACC scanner, the news, and text updates. I didn’t cry, which surprised me. Officer Down. I could only feel rage, resignation, and slightly relieved – because it wasn’t my husband on the news. (And afterward, guilty for feeling that way.) My husband knew SPO Christian, went to a couple of training sessions with him. The community really stepped up for the family in the aftermath of his death, donating time and money to see that SPO Christian’s dream of taking care of his family – to build a family home, to send his children to school, to make sure they want for nothing. It’s a shame that his dream was realized so quickly, without him here to see it, under the circumstances.

354 spent four years in a city that was like a Hollywood set – pretty on the main street surface, but get off the beaten path and find nothing but ramshackle construction and dark corners. Nine housing projects and four trailer parks within 10.5 square miles and a frequent stop on the pill trail up from Florida. The census data is never correct because there’s no telling who actually lives where or for how long. Usually there were no more than four officers plus a supervisor on shift because it was all the city would spend for the officers on duty – there was no more in the budget for additional officers, a common reply – and some you couldn’t trust for backup. I did my best not to worry when he left for work, but I did a lot of praying, and a lot of listening to the scanner app on my phone. He made sure to call or text me when he could, and I tried not to call him every five minutes to check up, in case I’d be interrupting him while he was on a call. There were some dicey calls that he called in the middle of, if he had a chance, to let me know what was going on and that he was okay; often I wouldn’t get a call until after things had calmed down. I never got a call from another officer, or from dispatch, to let me know that something had gone wrong and that I could meet him at the hospital; and I never got someone showing up at the house to take me somewhere to be there when he woke up. I had a dream, while he was on duty one night, that he got shot and was in a coma. I woke myself up, crying, and couldn’t bring myself to call him and make sure he was okay, because what if he wasn’t? I finally managed to send him a text, and got an almost-immediate response, but he still came home the next morning to find me wide-awake in the bed, waiting on him. He never left the house, or hung up the phone, or stopped texting me, without saying “I love you,” no matter how tired or pissed off or tense we were with each other. It was unthinkable that the one night we didn’t say it would be the night that would change everything, and neither of us wanted to live through the aftermath of that possibility knowing that we hadn’t told each other the most important thing.

It takes a special breed to be married to a law enforcement officer, a subset of the species that is the support base for public safety and military in general. You must be thick-skinned, to withstand the stresses of not exactly knowing when your spouse will be home or what’s going on while they’re on call, to shake off the rude comments and invasive questions that strangers will inevitably pose if they find out you’re married to a cop, to ignore the demands and hopeful requests from friends who hope you can somehow get their ticket reduced or thrown out, even though they might have been going twenty over in a 45, but what’s the big deal? You have to be self-sufficient, to some degree, because you are all things while your spouse is on shift – an off day can prove useful for the big projects, but the daily tasks like dishes and laundry and car maintenance and grocery shopping is largely on your shoulders. If you’re a parent, you must often be mom and dad, because Daddy’s asleep because he worked last night, let’s go to the park so you can play and we won’t wake him, okay? You must be okay with a limited social circle, because some people cannot be trusted, and a lot of people won’t understand the quirks that your husband possesses, like a requirement to sit facing the door at a restaurant and his habit of watching every single person that goes by the table, and no, we can’t eat there because there’s a strong possibility of running into some people he’s arrested. Most of all, you must be stronger than anyone imagines, because you don’t know, and you can’t afford to speculate or you’ll never get off your ass and get things done.

Because it is the first anniversary of his death, the local paper did a “look back” with SPO Christian’s widow, Melissa. They married in 1996, bought property in the next county in 2000, had two children, and planned their lives together, including their dream house to be built on the other side of the treeline. Melissa recounts her goings-on the day that Buddy was killed, including not being able to see her husband until the Friday after, and the voicemail that he left on her phone that she didn’t listen to until that afternoon. “Hey babe — checking with you to see how you’re doing. Love you.” 

I can’t read those words without crying uncontrollably.

I can’t imagine what Melissa must have been going through when she got back to the vet school and was met by all those people. Scratch that: I don’t want to imagine it. Selfish, yes, but I can hear the same words that Buddy left for his wife in my husband’s voice. He left me voicemails often that were to the same tune when he was on duty, called me and I couldn’t get to the phone in time. I don’t want to think of all those calls that went right that could’ve gone wrong. I don’t want to think of someone coming to get me at home because my husband was shot and killed in the line of duty by some lowlife drug runner with no honor and no sense or care. No one wants to be the sudden widow, center of everyone’s curiosity and sympathy, trying to field the endless lines of people while she comforts her children and tries to shut down her brain’s useless lines of thought so she can attempt to function. But for all of us, it has to happen to someone.

My husband is the light of my life. I couldn’t imagine what would happen to me if that light were snuffed out. If my child were left without a father.

God bless you, Melissa, and all the other spouses who’ve lost their officers. We think of you, and them, every day. Thank you for taking the unwanted burden with outward grace so that the rest of us don’t have to. We are here for you.

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