I had the privilege of working for a sergeant who is a strong Christian during the beginning of my career and then again as my career came to an end. Mike Tilson was one of the sergeants during my academy experience and then years later when I went to the academy to write training and policy, he was the administrative sergeant and my boss. I caught up with his wife, Bev, and asked her what it was like being the civilian married to the officer. Here’s the interview.
Question: As I recall, Mike wasn’t an officer when you got married, was his decision to enter law enforcement something you embrace 100% or did you have reservations? I don’t recall ever having any reservations. I wanted him to do what he wanted to do. I did tell him that I didn’t want him to ever work in Vice or the Bomb Squad, but I didn’t really have any problem with him being in law enforcement. I think we were both very young and naive. Our favorite TV shows were Adam-12 and Dragnet, and we all know that television tends to bend reality. I only thought about the pride I would feel having my husband in a uniform. I don’t think I had a realistic grasp of the danger and stress he would be under.
Question: What was the hardest aspect of being married to an officer? For me personally it was being alone for most of the night when he worked the afternoon shift from 1630 to 0230 for 11 years. It is a story of its own, the wonderful way that God guided me through those years and brought me from being a quivering mass of terrified jello to now being able to stay alone in a house for several nights.
As to something more common to all officers would be the tremendous stress that a street cop is under every shift. They often work with the dregs of society (depending on their beat) and almost always with citizens who are not happy about something. I think that the very nature of the job tends to make officers more hardened and cynical than the average person.
Just as any profession that continually deals with trauma and emergencies and danger, they need to do something to shield themselves and keep their sanity. Sometimes this hardness and cynicism comes home and some of the stress is release on the family. Through the years we often said we didn’t know how officers and their families who didn’t have God to guide and guard them ever made it though the years…(they often don’t…divorce and alcoholism run high in police families) Besides our church family, we also belonged to Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers. Their prayers and support helped a lot.
Question: What was the best? The pride that my husband was doing a very tough but necessary job and was doing it well was one of the best things. Getting to know the other families in our Fellowship of Peace Officers group was a great part of those years. One of my favorite “bests” is the Police Officers Association Bar-B-Q every September!
Question: Can you think of one incident that happened while Mike was working that tested your faith? I can’t think of anything that “tested” it, but I have at least one that proved and strengthened it. One night when he was still on patrol in North Long Beach (not a great neighborhood!), I was saying my prayers before bed. I had already passed my prayers for him and our children and was along into other things when I had this overpowering feeling (almost an audible voice) that I needed to pray for him right now. I thought it strange but said extra prayers for him and noted the time. In the morning I asked him how his shift had gone and then asked specifically what he had been doing at that particular time. He had been chasing an armed felon through backyards and over fences. In the last yard, he had lost sight of the fellow and was looking around to see if he could see him. Meanwhile (he later discovered) the man was hiding in the shadows pointing his loaded gun at Mike almost point blank. I still feel that it was only God’s urging and specific protection that saved Mike from becoming a victim.
Question: If your son or daughter were to marry an officer, what would be your advice? Keep your faith as strong as you can by being actively involved in a good church. Especially important would be to join a Christian Peace Officer support group (there are many different groups).