Some time ago, I read in "Dear Abby" a letter written by a woman considering marrying a man committed to becoming a law enforcement officer. She had very strong reservations about this line of work and seriously wondered if she loved him enough to go ahead and get married and allow him to pursue his career goals. She was worried about the stress involved in knowing her husband-to-be might go to work and never return, or at least return injured.
Oversimplified, Abby replied, "If you can't allow your husband to choose his vocation, then don't marry him." I thought that answer was a little weak.
Is it dangerous to be a law enforcement officer today? Yes. However, it is not the most dangerous occupation in the world. More people are killed on the highway each year than all of the law enforcement personnel that died. Also, although it is not comforting to think about, more people are killed each year by accidents, weather-related events, and suicides than in law enforcement. I suppose law enforcement is considered the most dangerous by people because the job involves guns, shootings, physical and emotional confrontations, fast cars, and being first responders at major crises; but those feelings actually eschew the facts.
We live during a dangerous time. The media reports crime every day. How would we feel to be in a Dollar General Store while it was being robbed? Or in a gas station, or a celebration when someone starts shooting, or during an active shooter situation? As a matter of fact, I find it extremely stressful and dangerous to even drive down highway 71 during morning and evening rush hours when drivers too often are doing crazy things.
On the other hand, the media is very slow about reporting the good things that happen in all situations. The Facebook clientele recently went ballistic when cameras showed two football players, one from each team, praying together before the game. Wow! Don't people know opposing football players are not supposed to be friends, and any picture of prayer in public is almost anathema? Yet, a lot of professional baseball players do not hesitate to lift their arms and point upward whenever something good happens.
There is stress in every occupation. However, there also are good things. I have seen literally hundreds of instances where someone in law enforcement helped someone in need. And, I also know that most law enforcement officers never draw their weapon during their long careers. That's not what they are about. Yes, there are those situations where decisive action must be taken, and law enforcement officers train for the worst scenarios; but they are not the only people involved in crisis. I also happen to be a "first responder" and just may end up in a dangerous situation, but I don't lose any sleep over it. I'm here to help people in distress, and so are law enforcement officers.
Not only this, but I will go even further. We always thank our veterans for their service, but many people also thank their law enforcement officers. I cannot tell you the number of times I or an officer has been thanked and actually praised. On occasion, I have eaten with officers only to discover that our meal was paid for anonymously. Just think, how many times do you think someone who is a doctor, salesperson, insurance or financial broker, truck driver, or any other occupation has had the same experience? Almost never. Not even firemen receive such blessings.
Yes, being a law enforcement's spouse is stressful. Some spouses handle it very well; others do not. Some officers are able to come home and share with their spouse about the day's work; others cannot because their spouses cannot handle it. But it becomes much easier if the spouse takes a little time to listen and understand the life of a police officer. After all, they are human beings and are involved in working in stressful situations trying to create harmony and protection in some of the bad situations around us.
We wouldn't hesitate a moment to call a law enforcement officer if we needed help, and so we should not be resentful if someone else calls one of them to help. Working a daily shift for the vast majority of law enforcement officers is not much different than any other job. Consider the officers in Bella Vista where officers go to work and return home without being harmed.
So, I would say to the prospective spouse of a police officer, "Don't worry about your husband being in law enforcement. Get to know his profession, and be proud of him (or her)."
• • •
Robert Box is the former chaplain for the Bella Vista Police Department and is currently the Fire Department chaplain. Opinions expressed are those of the author.Religion on 11/20/2019
Print Headline: Marrying into law enforcement