As a child of the 80s and 90s, I vividly remember McGruff the Crime Dog and the mustached D.A.R.E. officer who opened his squad car to my 4th grade class. We climbed in, checked out all the equipment, turned on sirens and then watched with rapt attention as he dusted the side of his squad with black powder and a little feather duster. It was completely magical to watch him lift our little handprints from the side of the squad car. My earliest experiences with police officers were positive ones. In a weird twist of fate, I even went on to fall in love with one. Eight years ago, we were married and I became Mrs. 535.
It wasn’t the uniform I fell for. It was the servant heart that beat underneath his badge that pulled me in. It was the way that he connected with people who needed his help. It was the way he approached his work with a sense of duty, honor, courage and integrity.
When I was younger, I remember seeing Police Week ceremonies on TV. Row upon row of uniformed police officers. Famous national landmarks in the background. Family members silently crying as the camera panned the scene during the 60-second snippet on the 5pm news. I remember feeling sadness for the families who lost their officer, but I was so far removed from it that I didn’t really understand the gravity of it.
My perspective has shifted since then. I’ve grown up and the role of law enforcement in my life has radically changed. As a result, the events of Police Week impact me differently now. Now over a decade into his career, my husband has had several close calls that very easily could have led to his name being added to that great stone wall in Washington DC. Now, when I see the ceremonies on the news or in my social media feeds, I look closely at the faces on screen to see my friends who are actually there participating in the official events.
I also experience these events simply as a mother to young boys. In our house, we use these times as opportunities to talk about how brave the police officers are for helping people even when it’s scary and dangerous. We talk about how if they get lost or see someone being hurt, they should go to a police officer and ask for help. We frame our discussions about good choices and not good choices, rather than good guys versus the bad guys. We attend open houses so the boys have the chance to interact with police officers in a positive environment, rather than a trauma filled event.
Being a police wife in this post-Ferguson era is challenging – even downright scary at times. 2018 has seen more line of duty deaths of police officers than ever. Over a seven day period earlier in the year, there were as many LODDs. Literally at least one per day. But rather than go down the rabbit hole of fear and anxiety, I choose to channel my energy and time into building community and shining a light on the positive work that Minnesota police officers are doing on a daily basis. Along with 2,000 other Minnesota women who are either married or in a committed relationship with a police officer, I contribute to community service projects benefitting police officers and families who are dealing with illness or injury. We support our police officers by hosting events, securing sponsors, providing beautiful blue roses to police funerals and providing support and resources to Minnesota police officers dealing with PTSD.
When thinking about Police Week and the lives honored during this special time, I really try hard to think less about how those officers died and more about how they lived. That is where the true honor lies. It’s in the lives lived in service to others, countless acts of courage and their dogged determination to the be the good in the world that makes those men and women worthy of recognition and remembrance.
If you are wondering how you can show your support for police and use Police Week as a teachable moment for your children, there are a few easy things you can do locally:
- Attend a local Police Week memorial event.
- Follow your local city police department and county sheriff’s office on social media. Comment on posts and share feedback about what you would like to see on their social media.
- Attend an Open House at your local police station or sheriff’s office. Several events are planned now and throughout the summer so the public can get an inside look at some of the equipment used by law enforcement and learn valuable safety tips.
- Write a thank you note and/or color a picture and deliver it to your local police department or sheriff’s office.
- Partner with a non-profit or faith-based organization to make and deliver treat bags with non-perishable items (bottled water, beef jerky, granola bars, sunscreen, lip balm, etc).
- Though it’s a cliche, many police officers love donuts. Stop at your favorite donut shop and pick up a dozen or two to drop off at a local police station or sheriff’s office.
- When you see a police officer, simply say thank you to them for their service. A kind word can be very powerful.
(Police Week began in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy as a time for our nation to honor fallen and disabled police officers. Over time, it has become a time to share our thanks with all law enforcement officers in our communities.)