The lifestyle and culture of law enforcement affects more than just the officers. Spouses, partners, parents, children, and companions of law enforcement officers play an integral role in an officer’s health and wellness. The IACP’s Law Enforcement Families blog series highlights the importance of the dedication and support that law enforcement officers receive throughout their careers from their families. This blog series will cover various issues that law enforcement family members face, and provide successful strategies for work and home.
Guest Blogger: Laci Steele, Spouse of Chief Stewart Steele of Chickasha, Oklahoma, Police Department
This past October, I attended the IACP Annual Conference Companion Track series in San Diego, California. What I learned there helped me understand what resources are needed to support law enforcement spouses, and, more importantly, helped me understand that I am not alone in the challenges I experience. I learned there are many more women and men serving in a supportive role for their law enforcement partners but often lacking a support network of our own.
Many spouses, like me, relocated miles away for their spouse’s position. Coming into a new place without a support system can be difficult. At first, I found myself very lonely but after the first few months, very busy. When my spouse served as assistant chief for a much larger department, I did small things like proofread documents, but when he moved to the chief position in a smaller agency with fewer resources, I took on a much different role than I ever expected. My new role included starting and maintaining the police department’s social media accounts, monitoring both the official police department and police chief Facebook pages. I proofread policies, procedures, and media releases, and I sometimes created new documents for the department. I also attended functions alongside my spouse and in that I found myself held to different standards in the community, which can be socially challenging to navigate. Coming into this move, I knew the position my husband held would be challenging for him, but I never expected it would be so demanding for me.
I know that not all chief’s spouses take on the roles I currently have, but I imagine all spouses are serving in an unspoken role in various ways. My goal is to garner support for the role we serve. The IACP Annual Conference was eye opening for me. There were many other police chief spouses who were also looking for support, direction, and resources. IACP listened to our concerns and is taking steps in support of our role, and I am proud to be a part of this new and exciting movement. After the conference, I immediately reached out to IACP and our state association, the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP), to get our spouse voices heard here in Oklahoma. As such, I will be hosting a class for our OACP Conference this summer, and the Companion Track will convene again at the IACP Annual Conference in Philadelphia this October. I hope these ground breaking steps encourage each of you to want more for us as spouses. Let’s grow together. I hope to see more spouses at the conference in Philadelphia, and I look forward to working together to expand law enforcement companion services and resources and to better understand the unspoken role we serve.