I was in Eastvale this week covering a demonstration.
If you’re unfamiliar with the City of Eastvale it’s north of Norco, west of Mira Loma and south of Ontario off the I-15 Freeway. It’s one of the newest communities in Riverside County, and the community has drawn attention for its unusual demographics – a large number of residents are associated with public safety.
The collective reputation of law enforcement has suffered a great deal since Ferguson exploded last summer.
While public trust of police is declining, according to national surveys, that’s not the case in Eastvale.
There is one particularly passionate group that is making their voices heard. They are called WOLFF, or Wives of Law Enforcement and Firefighters.
On Thursday evening, I watched hundreds of families converge on Eastvale. Many carried and waved hand-painted signs reading, “My Daddy’s Life Matters, We Support Our Police,” “Police Lives Matter” and other messages of support.
The demonstrators chanted, clapped and encouraged passing motorists to honk.
In past demonstrations in support of law enforcement, I’ve witnessed a few passersby throw a one-finger salute.
I didn’t see a single one this time.
The attendees ran the gamut, from toddlers in strollers, pee-wee league cheerleaders to parents and grandparents.
I spoke with Dani Medrano one organizers of the event. Her husband is a deputy sheriff. WOLFF began in 2010 when they began to recognize that a large number of local families had law enforcement or firefighter roots.
What started out as a loosely organized group eventually became its own non-profit.
The group collaborates on fundraisers, social events and support for families when tragedy occurs.
In cases where there have been injuries and illnesses they have been there to support the families of those involved with everything from meals to a shoulder to cry on.
Families of more than a dozen agencies participated.
I talked with a few of the wives in the crowd and asked them how they felt about the negative media coverage over the last year.
The common sentiment: anger
Spouses of police officers have to live with fact their loved ones might get hurt or killed on any given day. They know their spouses would sacrifice themselves in an instant to chase down bad guys and protect the public. They routinely put themselves in harms way. And they do this knowing full well they have loved ones worried about them at home.
It makes you wonder who would marry someone like that. That’s what makes a police officer’s spouse especially special.
You can imagine how personal it must be to see your loved one’s profession repeatedly vilified. Every insult, every #killacop or #FTP hashtag is personal. It hurts.
I’m sure in some way it must have been therapeutic to stand on a busy street corner among hundreds of like-minded supporters. In Eastvale, the voices are loud. The mayor and city council members were on the street corners standing alongside the demonstrators.
Towards the end of the evening as the crowd was dispersing I spoke with Fred and Mary Hernandez. They told me their daughter is a 15-year veteran of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. I asked them how they felt about all the negativity directed at law enforcement. Mary answered, “It hurts. If only people knew how much our daughter loves her job.” They were proud to be able to support her.
I have to hand it to WOLFF and all those who attended. One can only imagine how powerful an influence the families of law enforcement would be if they collectively let themselves be heard.
If you have a loved one in law enforcement please feel free to share what you’re feeling these days.
I’d be very interested in hearing what you have to say.
Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.