A LETTER TO HIS WIFE
By Gina Gallo
You used to call me a whore. That was your term for me, for all the
women who chose to join the Police Department. As far as you were concerned, we had no business being cops. You, and most of the other wives of Chicago's finest were certain we had other agenda.
Like stealing your husbands, or having unlimited opportunity for hot sex in cool blues, all while receiving a paycheck and pension along with our conquests. We were called 'Bimbos with badges,' 'the
playgirl police,' and a lot of other names as hurtful as they were inaccurate. And while outraged wives picketed City Hall, demanding that the 'sluts with stars' be
removed from the department, our class of female patrol officers joined the male contigent in the business of becoming cops.
We learned our lessons well. Not just the rules and regs of Department life, or the defensive tactics that would keep us alive on the street, but the harder lessons as well. Like the reality of working with
men who had long been part of a 'Boys' Club' where women were playmates, not co-workers. A woman who could shoot a gun? Impossible! A female who'd cover her partner's back and not panic -
or cry? Not a chance. Which meant we had to do the job and do it better, just to be considered equal.
The women who become cops do so for as many reasons as their male counterparts.
Better salaries and benefits. Families to support. Career aspirations. But not the sexual playground all of you suspected at the beginning. When we finally made it through and were sent out to the streets,
the scenario was much different than you predicted.
I was assigned a beat to patrol and a regular partner, and developed a relationship with him far
different than you could have guessed. He became my responsibility. Trust is imperative between partners, since both our lives depend on it. He's the person who watches my back, is alongside me
through it all - street fights and shootings, ambushes and car chases. We learn each other's strengths and weaknesses, behavior patterns, personality characteristics. Just like a marriage, you say? It's
exactly like a marriage, only more so.
Cops are with their partners eight hours a day, - eight hours of being alert, watchful and absolutely
ready for the unknown. And since the average patrol cop experiences long periods of calm between the action, there's lots of time to talk, and to listen. It's just a way to pass the time
but we learn more about our partners, their thoughts and observations than even their wives know. That's because we're cops too, and we understand what civilians can't.
We cover our partners' backs, keep them safe, prop them up and trust that they'll do the same for us. And we make sure they know they're special, because they are - regular guys in superman suits who
protect the public, try to do what's right, and bring home their paychecks to the wife and kids. Something we can understand, since we're doing the same.
We learn about our partners' family lives. We know about Tommy's Little League championship, or Patty's struggle with freshman algebra. And yes, we hear the wife stories too -
her plans to redecorate the family room, her monthly excursions to the mood swings of PMS, and how she complains when, on his two precious days off, all he wants to do is relax at home.
We learn enough about each other to fortify our friendship, and allow us to place our lives in each other's hands. We face life and death together, counting on this one person to bring us back alive. Not
a job requirement for most other professions, but for cops, it's essential every time we hit the streets.
So while you were at home making the meat loaf or deciding on a color scheme for the new den, I was
watching his back. It was a vague call the dispatcher put out - "Woman screaming for help in the
alley." Which might have been a rape in progress, or an alley cat in heat, but either way, it was our job to follow through.
Leaving our car back on the street, we entered the mouth of the alley cautiously. In the inner city, cop ambushes are frequent occurrences, and it was dark enough to qualify for the perfect set-up. As with
most alleys in that area, the lights had been shot out, leaving a murky gloom. Which is why street cops have to be savvy in the night moves that will keep them alive - no jingling keys, no blaring police
radios, nothing that will announce our presence. Only a soundless creep down a garbage-strewn maze of trash cans and broken glass.
We inched down fifty yards - a hundred - and still no sign of a woman, screaming or otherwise. And were almost to the end of the alley when we saw it - the huge steel dumpster
that blocked the alley exit. The one that'd been pushed there by the gangbangers who lurked behind, ready to take us down.
I don't remember doing it. Only saw the first flaming burst from automatic pistols that licked toward the rusty trashcan. I knew my partner crouched somewhere in that vicinity. My partner, who had
three kids, a double mortgage, and a wife who called him, 'Grumpy.' The man who was my responsibility to send home alive.
The first clip - 17 rounds of potential death- spat from my Glock in a fluid blue stream. Without even thinking, I slammed in another ammo clip and lit up the alley. It was more than survival now - it was
responsibility. My partner had become my family, my friend , my lifeline. I couldn't be any less for him.
A sentiment you seemed to share when you visited me in the hospital. And assured me that the
doctors said I'd be up and walking in no time, that the surgery had been a success. That was when you cried, and thanked me for doing what I did, - what any cop is supposed to do - look out for my
partner - your husband. And this time, you called me 'friend.'
Copyright © 2000 by Gina Gallo - www.gallostories.com
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