By Lisa Ingrassia
2020 has been a year.
When COVID first speared her ugly head I quickly found myself washing my husband’s uniform every night, dousing his shoes with Lysol, then mopping our floors upon his entry into the home all while working full time myself. I became a real-life Cinderella in the blink of an eye.
And I stupidly thought THAT was exhausting.
Now within a few days it feels as if the entire world hates my husband, his entire department and the wives must sit back and watch. As a result, many of us have chosen to remain silent because quite honestly, I should NOT have to defend my husband OR his department. Let me remind everyone that just a few weeks ago the public was calling our police stations nonstop requesting birthday drive bys while our officers were working around the clock dealing with COVID and the endless executive orders our Governor is issuing every day. And by the way, COVID is still happening and our officers are still dealing with a pandemic.
I sit back and watch my husband put on his uniform and head out into total pandemonium, into a world that is just waiting to dissect every single word that he speaks. Waiting like hungry predators. As I sit back I think of my folder filled with letters praising this man for going above and beyond his ENTIRE career. A man who came to this country not speaking a word of English at the young age of 7. A man who became a proud American, a man who is loved by everyone who meets him, a man who became a Police Chief in our local town.
Quite honestly my husband is a total helper and it’s exhausting at times. You can call my husband at all hours of the night and he will answer. He’s always ready to serve and protect. He’s constantly trying to evolve into a better version of himself. He wears his badge with pride and I wear his badge with honor.
When I held the Bible in my hands as my husband was sworn in as Chief, never once did I think that I would be hated or a target for what he has chosen as a career. A career that is a calling for so many brave men and women.
His neighboring town has had peaceful protests. I’ve watched the live feed of the ones my husband has worked. I have watched him prepare to go out into a crowd that hates him for the uniform he wears. But he still reports to work with a smile on his face while kissing me and saying, “Don’t worry it will be ok.” I often wonder do people realize that our officers are there to ensure traffic is stopped, roads are closed, our protestors are protected, and the speakers can be heard and not hassled? Who else is going to stop traffic on a busy road so protestors can march across it? I’ve watched young teenagers get right into our police officers faces screaming profanities while calling them pigs. I have watched young girls screaming vulgarities at these officers. And it is this type of behavior that is devastating for everyone. I watch frozen with fear at an angry mob screaming at our officers. Let me be clear, the protestors are long gone at this point. It’s now a group of young adults screaming and running rampant throughout the community.
I would love to invite these young people to sit at the table with me and tell them about all the good my husband and his department do daily. I could tell them about how each Christmas our officers take hundreds of dollars out of their own pockets to purchase gifts for children in need in the community. The officers then drive around on Christmas morning to play Santa for the children while dropping off the gifts that they purchased. Some officers choose to leave their families on Christmas morning to do this, expecting nothing but a smile from the neighborhood children and wanting to give them a memorable Christmas. I could tell these young people about the annual fundraiser these officers hold for a local animal shelter and the hundreds of dollars our officers spend to support our local animal shelter.
I could tell these young people about the hundreds of dollars we also spend on food and other necessities for the less fortunate in our community. That all of this money comes out of our pockets. I could also tell you about the time we were late for a wedding because there was a car wreck and my husband stopped, off duty to help pull the woman from the wreckage or about the wedding that he had to leave me at because a house was burning down in his town. I could also tell them about the multiple surgeries he has had to endure from injuries sustained in the line of duty. Or the anti-Semitic slurs directed towards him while on duty because he is Jewish. Or how so many people, even now laugh and say, “Jews aren’t cops, they are lawyers or doctors, are you sure he’s a real cop?” But my husband always keeps his composure and comes home with a smile on his face. My husband is not the exception, he’s the norm for his profession.
I sat on edge as I watched live feed Monday night. I watched young people screaming at the officers working, throwing rocks and bottles at our officers. I found myself quickly scanning the live feed looking for his car wondering where is he, is he ok, is he alone? Did I tell him how much I love him before he left for work? And to break my heart even more I hear the “reporter” on the live feed yelling at the officers, yelling at the men and women protecting HER.
I find my heart breaking even more because I wonder what happened to ethical journalism and reporting just the facts? What happened to remaining neutral? I sit back and watch the flames getting fanned and I’m frozen in fear because my husband is right in the middle of this hell on earth. Let me remind you the peaceful protestors are long gone at this point. I force myself to blink my eyes because for a few minutes hoping this will go away, perhaps I’m watching the Purge, maybe this isn’t real life.
But it is real life, and it’s my new terrifying reality.
This type of behavior is terrifying for our entire country not just police families, it mutes the real issues and forces many to “take sides.” And when sides are taken nothing ever changes.
This past Friday our neighboring community had another protest. Instantly in the pit of my stomach I felt terror. Not again, please. Please God let it be peaceful.
I hugged my husband when he left and told him, “You are MY hero, come home safe.” I listened to the sound of velcro again, watched him lace up his boots and I prayed. I prayed for peace. I prayed for the safety of our officer and the protestors.
And then I sat home and watched. I paced the floors like a lion and watched.
But this time I saw something beautiful.
For starters this reporter was neutral and reported just the facts. No side bar peanut gallery comments, no yelling, just a reporter following a protest giving actual facts.
I watched a young man named Scottie Lewis lead the march. He plays basketball for the University of Florida and runs the non-profit social activism team “Peacebyu & Company.” He was well spoken, eloquent, and passionate. There was zero hate in him, just a young man who wants positive change in our country. I watched with tears in my eyes. I watched a young man who will most certainly get drafted into the NBA and will absolutely have an amazing future. I watched him lead a peaceful march throughout our neighboring town and I was so incredibly thankful. If I could I would hug him myself and thank him. I watched the entire community kneel with him.
Scottie’s peaceful demeanor left you compelled to listen along with a strong desire to learn and have a positive impact on others. We need more young adults like Scottie and the young men and women from Peacebyu & Company. Since Friday I have been wondering, does this young man even know that this wife of an officer is so incredibly thankful for him?
Institutional change in the justice system is needed, but I am begging everyone to stop demonizing the police as a whole to achieve that end. Cops are NOT all the same. Please do not judge my husband by his uniform but by the content of his character.
Just because I am supporting law enforcement does not mean I condone racism or injustices by law enforcement. I married a man, a good man who is also a police officer. He has a heart just like yours and wants peace and positive change just like everyone else.
We cannot keep fixing this with bubble gum anymore – we must do this together.
We need to sit at the same table and discuss the ugly issues that we think will go away. We need to truly listen to each other with an open heart and an open mind. We need to stand together for equality, for dignity and for peace.
“When you talk you are only repeating what you know. When you listen, you learn something new.” Dali Lama