May 29, 2020
Here we go again….
Police spouses are experienced in the aftermath of a controversial officer-involved controversy. We know what to expect. We have witnessed it many times. History repeats itself and we just wait for the other shoe to drop.
But no matter how many times we do this, and no matter whether the officer was justified or not, we cannot be truly prepared for the way our life changes when it happens. We still look on in horror and enter into a temporary, emotionally-charged state of affairs that only police families can relate to.
Let me pause for a moment.
I am well aware that this article might sound tone-deaf for those reading that are sympathizing with the rioters. So that you may choose to close this window and avoid wasting your time reading the rest, I will let you know now that I make no apologies for that. I refuse to tread carefully here, as my support for police officers is steadfast, unwavering, and non-negotiable. Further, this article is for police spouses who are suffering right now. And that is all that I will acknowledge here. I do not wish to argue or reason with anyone. I just want to try to create a voice for a part of the population that is impacted, and perhaps dismissed.
That all being said, I do find this officer’s actions despicable. I do feel that these officers should be charged with the murder of George Floyd. And I do feel like this lends to a bad reputation for police officers everywhere. But I do not feel that this event is an accurate representation of any single police officer, or the general population of police officers.
Friends, we are entering into troubling times. For many of us, this will be the second, third, fourth, or fifth time. The rioting won’t stop in Minneapolis. People all over the country will set their own fires to join in. We know what is coming next. Credible threats against police officers’ lives scattered about the nation, assassination attempts, hate crimes, racial tension, and a heightened risk triggering many police families to feel like they need to be extremely discreet about themselves and what they share. Sending our husbands and wives out the door tomorrow will be a little tougher. The anxiety through the day might be a little more intense. Hearing the peeling Velcro at the end of the day will be more soothing than ever. And we will be hanging on every word about the progression of these events.
The truth is that some of our spouses will be directly affected by this. Some of our officers will have to tolerate hate speech as they simply try to do their jobs protecting and serving the community. Some of our husbands and wives will be targeted simply because they wear a badge. Some officers will come home with an injury because of a hate-sparked altercation in the field. Sadly, it is not inconceivable that police officers will die as a direct or indirect result of this event and subsequent rioting. Some of our spouses will come home and tell us to remove our blue line bumper sticker or to stop proudly wearing our blue line apparel. All this to try to protect us from the potential for violence that goes along with tension created by controversial police actions.
Now, more than ever, police spouses need to latch on to each other for support. Resist the urge to toss back and forth whether this is wrong or right, or a race issue or not, or what could have been done differently. Nobody else can understand what it is like for us to send our officers out into a world that threatens to eat them alive, and then wait for several hours to find out if they made it through the night. So, don’t squander those therapeutic relationships.
We, of course, always know this danger exists. But it is normal to feel heightened anxiety over it when the world is, literally, on fire and cops are at the center of the madness. To add to that, your social media is going to be flooded with posts about it, some of them more inflammatory than others. Between that, and the media, you won’t be able to escape it. You will feel like you’re drowning in it. It is next to impossible to cope with it when you’re right in the middle of it. Your best ally is the other police spouse that is sinking right next to you.
I think that many of us are also facing newfound irreconcilable differences in friends and family right now. When an officer-involved controversy occurs, we start to see the opposing viewpoints from these people on our social media. Aunt Sally posts a meme with anti-cop rhetoric. Jennifer, the old high-school friend makes a post bashing cops and racism. How you deal with that is a very personal choice. My personal choice? “…another one bites the dust…..”
Whatever you do, take care of yourself. Exercise good self-care right now to manage your stress and anxiety. Allow yourself to process the emotions in a healthy way, and be sure to do things that make you feel good about yourself, about your body, about your mind, and about your spirit. Get exercise. Eat healthy. Have a long talk with a friend. See a therapist. Find a soothing hobby. Take care of yourself.
Most of all, be safe. Make good decisions and keep your eyes open. As much as we want to show our pride for our spouses and their jobs, now is not the time to do that. I know some will say they refuse to hide it. And that’s fine. I get it. But be cognizant of where you are and what you’re doing.
Remember that its okay to be angry at this cop. It is also okay to be vocal about your support for cops. We can do both.
For those of you still reading, possibly thinking that I am in any way defending the officer’s actions or the actions of those that truly have tarnished the badge. I think I speak for most of us when I say that we, as police spouses, are just as disheartened as everyone else about this officer’s actions. We feel let down by this officer and probably all have a lot of rage for what this has done to the good police officers. Personally, I hate that this officer’s actions have had an impact on my husband’s reputation. My husband is a good cop. I trust that he makes good decisions and never would do anything like this. He is dedicated to his job. He protects and he serves, and his jacket is clean. In times like this, none of that matters. Right now, he is just another cop, and right now, cops are the enemy. Not one single one of us benefit from this. We are all just as upset as everyone else that this happened. Cops and their families are the most passionate haters of true “bad cops.” We all want justice.
Burke Educational Consulting
Dr. Jessica R. Burke. PHD
Forensic Educational Consultant