9-1-1; What Is Your Emergency?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Home Life, Work Life

Taken from Law Officer Magazine, Volume 4 Issue 12, December 2008, Bullethead Column

Dear Bullethead:

I occasionally read the Law Officer magazine my husband receives. My husband is also a father and a detective for the county. I have a very loyal and devoted man in my life. He tries hard to separate work and home life, but the reality is, you can't. Over the years, we've watched many young couples try, fight, separate, work it out and divorce. I was prepared to be in love, be happy, struggle, argue, worry, be richer, be poorer and create a family - not live in silence.

As a wife and daughter of cops, I know what the silence, uncertainty, waiting, brooding, pouting, anger, frustration, adrenaline and exhaustion can do to a family. I respect the privacy issues, the violent or repulsive details that he doesn't share.

Unfortunately, for all the wonderful deeds done by an officer, few are glorified. I'm proud of the officers who serve and the families who stand at their sides.

If you get a slow month, please write to the many officers about supporting their spouses out there who are trying to live both lives, too.

- Mrs. Detective in Tennessee

Dear Mrs. Detective:

Slow month nothing. This is way too important for that. The stability in an officer's life that comes from a good supportive home is essential to the long term success of the officer, their department and the law enforcement mission. You bring up some great points about the things a normal spouse can enjoy that law enforcement spouses can't. Let's examine those.

I know a whole bunch of officers who like to go to work "clean." These officers won't start their shift before ensuring they have no signs of their life outside the job. This means no rings, no pictures and no shirts for their kids' sports teams or school. The ring thing is usually what ticks off a spouse because many think their officers look great in uniform and want the ring there to slow down the vultures that may be circling. I've never been a ring guy, but even the vultures fear ol' Bullethead's salty, crusty ass, so Mrs. Bullethead doesn't have to worry. I agree with not carrying pictures, but most officers now have them all over their phones anyway.

Not talking is a big issue for many cop's spouses. They want to know what happened on the shift and be involved in their officer's work life. This one can get real sketchy, and if not handled properly it can be the start of deep issues in a marriage. The cops think they're protecting the spouse because who would want to know about dirt bags anyway? The spouse gets resentful because all the cop does is come home and drink beer and not talk about anything.

I've said it before: Bullethead is no therapist. I can offer a few suggestions, though. Officers must let their spouses know they trust them. They can do this through communication. Most departments have enough internal entertainment an officer can share to get them about half way there. Simple stuff such as "Officer No Load is a lop" or "The lieutenant is an idiot and I'm sure glad we have such a good sergeant to keep things together."

Officers should also talk about their shift and just leave out the bad details. Example: "Billy Bob got behind a stolen car, but the driver ran away and I spent half the shift freezing my butt off on a perimeter while they found him." Spouses don't need to know the bad stuff, such as the creep who left his one-year-old in a stolen car and ran away from his own child, but they should be allowed into the officer's life as much as possible.

When officers come home after seeing a dead child, they may not want to say a thing, and spouses need to get this and give them some space. Officer shouldn't keep them guessing, so just tell them: "I had a bad one and I need some room today."

Most importantly, police families must find a way to keep things cool when the officer is getting ready for work. The officer needs a clear head when they're working. For the Bullethead clan, no matter how big a pre-work fight is, we try to wrap it up and save it for some other time. And by the time we get back to it, we've both cooled down and the fight is more like a negotiation, which is great.

Every cop should go and plant a big one on their spouse and thank them for all the little things. After that, you might even get lucky!

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