DennisBeaverDecember 27, 2014 • By Dennis Beaver

“Getting married to a police officer requires considering realities which apply to no other occupation,” in the view of Santa Maria, California-based private investigator, Riley Parker. You and the Law sat down with the former Bakersfield Police Officer, and asked his advice for our reader, Cindy, who plans to marry a cop.

  1.  Your husband will never have consistent weekends off; will spend at least one-third of his career working a shift other than days, including evenings and “The Graveyard Shift.”
  2. How will you feel on “date night,” when he has a gun and handcuffs in his pocket just to go see a movie, or to a house of worship?
  3. Days will be spent in court, often after working all night, coming home to shower, change clothes, and be at court by 9 a.m., then spending hours sitting on a hallway bench, or at counsel table with the prosecutor. This can repeat days, even weeks, returning home for a four or five hour nap before returning to another overnight shift and it all starts again.
  4. Working sleep deprived, the risk of injury or death is increased. A split second decision, if wrong could end his career-or even worse — his life. Exhausted, he will often not be the best of company, nor, at those times, the romantic partner you fell in love with.
  5. Hearing, seeing and smelling things that you can’t imagine, at times he will seem especially withdrawn after having experienced something that is just too horrible to share. Not wanting you to experience the sights, sounds and smell of death, whether of violent or natural causes, it will be locked away inside of him, simmering.
  6. Holidays are especially difficult. You want to visit relatives for a few days but hubby is working overtime because senior officers took vacation time. If you go, you will go alone, and you will be resentful of his absence.
  7. Someday it will seem as if your husband has become closer to his co-workers than to you — and if his “partner” is a woman it will be especially concerning. Realize this does not mean infidelity. But spending between 8 and 10 hours together, four to six shifts a week results in a strong bond, as they depend upon on each other in life-threatening situations. “Brothers and Sisters in Law Enforcement” is a term you will come to understand. They know how the other will react when bad stuff happens, and it does. They console one another after sharing a call involving the death of a child, a brutal murder scene, or a horrific suicide.
  8.  Your husband will never be as close to anyone as to the people he depends upon and who depend upon him. You will hear, “They have my back,” whether it is a bar fight, a high speed pursuit, a neighborhood search for a murder suspect, a gunfight with an escapee from prison, or the tragedy of losing a partner or friend who is injured or killed in the line of duty.
  9. At times you may feel he is becoming secretive, and you are right, but not for the reasons you suspect. Sometimes information simply cannot be shared with anyone “not part of the investigation.” At other times, it is to protect you from something he fears is too ugly to reveal.
  10. You will both want to have children, but always remember there will be times when you’ll be alone at PTA meetings, back to school nights, soccer games, swim meets, medical appointments or birthday parties. Picture yourself as a single parent because that’s what you are when your husband is at work.
  11. To rise in the ranks of law enforcement, requires a degree beyond an AA or bachelor’s degree. If he seeks a higher position in the department, this generally means obtaining a master’s degree in public administration. And so, as he attends school for two years, you will have the sense that the family has been abandoned. Please avoid that feeling, as this man who loves you and the children is only doing this for the benefit of the family.
  12. Consider the ultimate risk, the danger of death or injury every time he leaves for work. Then look at his use of deadly force to protect himself, his partner or a citizen, knowing the intense scrutiny he will be exposed to, being second guessed? Can you cope with your husband being labeled a “killer?”

We at You and the Law add the following: “Cindy, in a law enforcement marriage you become part of one of the most satisfying and respected careers that exists. Consider the risks and rewards and look deeply into your soul to make the decision.”

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.