The brutal murders of five Dallas police officers last week, and the injuries of seven more, shocked our nation.
Those assassinations highlight the ultimate sacrifice police officers know they might be called upon to make every day they go to work. That’s why they make sure to kiss their loved ones good bye and say “I love you” when they leave, even if they’re running late.
Everybody knows on an intellectual level that a police officer’s job is dangerous. People are saddened and shocked but not surprised when the headlines read “Police Officer Killed in the Line of Duty.” Thankfully, those are relatively rare occurrences. Still, most people do not realize the injuries and challenges police face every day.
I don’t have that luxury.
I was a cop’s wife.
I was married to Sid for seven years. He was a good man, a good father, and a good cop. He was dedicated, and he paid for that dedication many, many times.
[sharequote align="center"]This is what a cop’s wife sees.[/sharequote]
Yes, he often came home bruised and tired. Now and again, I had to head to the police supply shop to pick up a new uniform for him, because his was torn the night before in a scuffle. Sometimes he came home and couldn’t stop talking about what he’d been through that night. Sometimes he would go silent and refuse to talk about what he’d seen, to protect me.
And those were the normal days.
Then there was the first time he called to let me know he was going to be late because he was in the emergency room getting stitches. Sid always called me himself; he didn’t want me to be scared by hearing his sergeant’s voice on the phone instead.
That night, he and his partner had chased a suspect through a construction site. They caught the guy, but it wasn’t until the chase was over and another officer pointed out that he was bleeding that he realized a piece of rebar had ripped into his leg.
One day he came home chuckling. He had delivered a suspect to the jail and was filling out paperwork when another man, taller and much heavier, rushed him. Sid had just enough time to fend him off with his clipboard, of all things. It seemed funny at the time. Within a couple of days, though, it became apparent that the tendons in his hand had been injured when he defended himself. He spent two months in physical therapy.
I lost track of how many times he had to dodge out of the path of a car while directing traffic at an accident, or when he was performing a traffic stop. He came home in his sweatpants once because his uniform was torn when he had to jump a guardrail to avoid being hit. Once he was involved in a collision when a driver didn’t yield the right-of-way, even though Sid was running with lights and sirens on. Thank God, nobody was seriously injured.
He often came home to pace, frustrated. He and his fellow officers would respond to a domestic violence call, and when they arrested a man who had just beaten his wife black and blue, she became angry and screamed at them. And he knew it wouldn’t be the last time he would be called to that location, to do it all over again.
People threaten cops. Most of the time, nothing happens. But police take it seriously enough to take precautions. Sid always wore a Hawaiian shirt over his uniform on his way to and from work, to disguise the fact that he was a cop. Just in case.
He was never off-duty, even when he was off-duty. One day during a stop at a friend’s store, Sid looked out the front door and saw somebody breaking into an apartment across the street.
“Call 911,” he told me. “Tell them there’s an officer on the scene.”
And out the door he ran, while I watched with my heart in my throat.
One night Sid and several other officers were called to a break in at the high school. Somebody had set off all the fire extinguishers. The halls were filled with mist, and it was difficult to see. He was moving through the school, trying to find whoever had broken in, when he saw a muzzle coming out of the mist, pointed at him. He shouted at whoever it was, telling them to freeze, to drop it, but they just kept coming. Sid almost pulled the trigger of his own gun. That morning Sid came home and cried in my arms for hours, because he’d almost shot a 16-year-old kid pulling a prank. That muzzle coming out of the fog? It was a fire extinguisher.
And these are just the incidents that stand out most strongly. This is what a cop’s wife sees. This is why she lingers at the door, watching as he leaves for work. And when she hears criticism of good cops, these are the things a cop’s wife wishes everybody could see.
Kris Krukowski is a lifelong native of the Midwest, originally and currently an Ohioan. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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