At some point in your husband’s career, you will face fear. Some of the wives I’ve talked to said the first year was the hardest, and then they settled down. Some of you have a natural tendency to worry, and this is hard for you. There are still others who hardly worry at all until they come face to face with a reminder that what their husbands do is dangerous.
Rosa told me that she was having trouble with fear. Her husband had graduated from the academy just three months earlier and then was sent to Oakland. I understood; in the last month there were two separate shooting incidents with our department alone and a riot deployment. A year earlier Oakland Police Department lost four officers to a single shooter. It was a dangerous place. She wondered how to deal with it.
When fear rears its ugly head, how can we deal with it? I think the answer lies in what we choose to put our trust in. What is it that we can hold on to that will be adequate to stand up to the “what ifs?” Let’s look at a few facts—they’re in our favor.
According to the National Employment Matrix, there were more than 1.2 million law enforcement members in the United States in 2008. During 2009, there were 116 deaths of American law enforcement officers, according to LawOfficer.com. Concerns of Police Survivors estimates on their website that 140 to 160 American officers lose their lives on duty every year. This is still too many on-duty deaths, but you can clearly see the odds here. Police officers are not even listed as one of the ten most deadly jobs.[i]
There is a great deal of time, energy, thought, and money that goes into the training that your husband receives and continues to receive throughout his career. There are many people throughout the country whose jobs are to reduce the amount of injuries and deaths of police officers. Law enforcement training is designed to provide each officer the mindset and tactics to make it home at the end of each shift.
The same can be said about protective gear. There are constant revisions and improvements in body armor, tools, and weaponry. My husband receives several catalogs a year to unveil the latest technologies available to law enforcement.
But we still lose excellent officers every year. It is a possibility no matter what the odds. So, how can we protect ourselves?
If something should go awry and you experience an injury or death, information is power; educate yourself. Here are several proactive steps you can take to ensure you are protected in these situations.
1. Do research on what your department provides for the families of fallen officers. In many cases, there may not be monetary benefits, but they might support you through assistance programs and help with funerals.
2. Look at federal and state benefits available to you.
3. Make sure your husband’s life insurance and accidental death/dismemberment is adequate for the needs of your family.
4. Draw up a will and provide a copy to the executer.
5. Keep your beneficiary information updated.
6. Ensure that your spouse keeps your contact information updated in the records at work (i.e., new address, phone numbers).
7. Have a conversation with your spouse about final wishes, how he wants to be buried and where, details he may want at his funeral, etc. If you can’t do this, have him write it down and keep in a safe place.
8. Know that police survivors have a strong support community through Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS). Their website has a wealth of information, and should you have to face this, there are local chapters you can contact.