At the 2017 IACP Annual Conference in Philadelphia, PA, the IACP Institute for Community and Police Relations convened a group of law enforcement officers and family members to discuss the support role family members play in the lives of law enforcement officers.
Facilitated by Jacqueline Ehrlich, Assistant Chief of United States Border Patrol, former IACP fellow— and a spouse of a law enforcement officer herself— the conversation included key topics about the unique role spouses and family play in supporting law enforcement and how agencies can help facilitate this support. Key recommendations included:
- Start early: Do not wait until trauma happens to provide support services. Start interactions with spouses and families early in an officer’s tenure. Some ideas included: inviting spouses to officer interview panels; hosting regular family support meetings; and getting families involved with the agency through family academies, tours, events at the station, or other family functions.
- Make it fun and meaningful: When engaging families, it is important to make sure these events are not only fun and engaging but have value. Roll out the SWAT gear and K-9s for demonstration, so that families understand the nature of policework; but also include information on mental health, fitness, and support services. Providing useful and meaningful resources to families and spouses demonstrates the importance of support systems for law enforcement.
- Be inclusive: While wives tend to be the most frequent users of these programs, it is important to remember that all families are different. Resources and family services should be available to anyone in the law enforcement officer’s life who may provide and need support – parents, husbands, partners, and children.
- Be flexible: When planning programming, remember to be flexible and understanding, as everyone has a different comfort level in sharing personal details of their life. Being respectful of these boundaries will create an atmosphere of trust.
- Reach out: There are many existing resources available already. Check with the local State Association of Chiefs of Police for spouse meet-up events, social media support pages, or other resources they may have. Be creative and flexible in finding what works for you and your community.
Need more Law Enforcement Family and Spouse resources?
- Visit the IACP’s Law Enforcement Family Resources page.
- Follow the IACP’s Facebook, and Twitter for future resources and blog posts.
- Consider attending the 2018 IACP Annual Conference on the Companion Track.