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Life as a police wife, Kristen Linton

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LEOW stands for ‘law enforcement officer wife’. Search the tag on Instagram and you’ll find a cultural trouve of women bonding over the shared vulnerability of being married to an officer. You won’t have to scroll far to come across @heelsandholster exploring the realities, both high and low, with comedy and practical tips. 

Kristen Linton is based in Los Angeles and has been a working mother and wife of Rick, a police officer, for nine years. In response to isolation and insecurity during the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020, she created a blog and instagram dedicated to helping other spouses of law enforcement officers navigate their experiences. 

Victoria: What is a day in life like for you, as a working mother and wife of a police officer? 

Kristen: My husband’s worked a night shift for most of his career. It’s always [been] awkward times that he works. So he gets up super early, like 3:30 A.M. or 4 A.M. And then [he] goes in, usually before we wake up. So I’m alone in the mornings. I’m used to that. My boys wake at six. I take them to school, then I work and pick them up at three. I’m a professor, so I try to get my classes or meetings in during their school time. Normal stuff— reading, cook and eat dinner. 

Rick is working days now, but ten hour shifts, so he’ll get home at like 7 or 7:30, and he’s like, ‘Go have some you time, take a shower’. I’m thankful for that. He’ll take them to wrestle in the park, or go skateboarding. Maybe I’ll film the Instagram reel then, if I know what I want to do, but usually I wait until night. 

Kristen and her husband, Rick, and two sons. 
Kristen Kristen and her husband, Rick, and two sons. 

V: How would you say that compares to the beginning?

K: He’s always been a cop. That’s something that might be kind of unique compared to other police. A lot of times it’s a later career [choice]. We were long distance, too— I feel like the police stuff didn’t impact me as much because it was just me. It’s like, ‘Okay, when he gets off, we can kinda hang out and prioritize our relationship.’ We were past our partying days, I’m happy just to Netflix and chill. Kids really changed things, though. I was alone a lot with this little child, we had just moved to Los Angeles, and I didn’t really know anyone. They work 10 or 12 hour shifts. But when he works like swing shift or nights, like maybe afternoon, mid-afternoon to mid, like, morning, like 3am or something—when they come home, they sleep. And then they go back to work. It’s just this constant cycle.

I found out that I had to get help elsewhere. But the first year, we tried to just do no daycare. I talked about that on my Instagram. That was the craziest idea. We were like, Okay, I’ll work mornings, I’ll teach mornings, and I’ll come home and Rick’ll go to work. And it’s like, when are we going to sleep? So I learned to ask for help more.

Lately, with things like the riots and craziness of BLM, we’ve had shifts where you don’t even know when the next day off is going to be. They can call at any time; like some of our spouses would be on 12 days in a row— 12 on, 12 off. You have to cover yourself, as the wife, knowing you can’t really depend on them. And it sounds bad, but I think once you realize that you still love them and you love when they’re around, it helps you to be independent and not resentful.

V: What was kind of your experience during Black Lives Matter and that social movement?

K: That’s actually when I started the Instagram. I was desiring an outlet to have a positive experience around everything that was so crazy. Where we live in Southern California [is] very liberal, very supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement, and I work for a university that is very supportive of the movement, too. I don’t personally have a problem with the notion of equity at all. Like, I have a background in social work, I want social justice for people, and I believe very strongly that my husband does, too. Most officers do. The way that it was presented in the news was very, very negative towards officers. There were officers going to prison for doing what they were told to do by their supervisors. 

I’d check the news. It’s like pulling teeth to get [Rick] to talk about it. He doesn’t like talking about work. I’d ask, It looks like they’re throwing things at officers, did you get something thrown at you? And he was like, Yeah, I did. I was like, Okay, what were they? He said they were throwing frozen water bottles and Molotov cocktails, and officers are told not to respond. They just have to stand there. I think a lot of people respond like, ‘They signed up for this’. No, no, I’m sorry. Being abused is not what they signed up for. 

V: What has the creation of your community given you?

K: For me, it made me feel less alone. It’s like a soundboard, you know, to just feel like, Okay, I’m normal. You know, all of this stuff, these little things that we go through, even just quirky things, nothing to do with BLM. It has given me a purpose, because now people come to me. I’m really honest about the day-to-day, the resentment and loneliness that can come up. People gravitate towards that because it’s real. It’s given me a purpose of like, trying to tell them, Okay, I am healthy, I’m joyful, and [this is] how I get out of that funk.

V: In that “funk”, what was it that was your source of strength to grow and go forward?

K: Definitely my kids. I don’t want to be this angry woman. When we were getting married, we said we were going to make this work, we’re in this for life. This is normal marriage stuff. Like every marriage, you have to compromise.

I’m writing this devotional now, because I’ve been reflecting on that. Wanting to be joyous and peaceful, it’s for us, right? It’s for us to succeed as a couple. 

That’s not what got me out of it. Purpose is what gets you out of it. But like, that’s the purpose, the reason to do it and not stay in that funk. So I want to tell you, it just sounds so cheesy. But Rick and I watched this Christian movie forever ago, called Fireproof, and this guy, his marriage isn’t going well. So, he goes to speak with his pastor and they tell him, “Show her that you care, even if you pretend. I know, you’re angry right now, but act like you love her for a month, and let’s just see how it goes.” I saw myself. I was resentful, and frustrated. I was telling Rick, ‘You’re never home’, and that’s not good because he would get defensive, of course. I did what this movie told us. It’s all about mindset, just starting with actions, and then those change your mind later. You tell someone you love them, you say out loud, you pray it. I would do nice things for him, text him nice things, stuff like that. Thank him. That’s what I tell my followers to do: start focusing on the gratitude piece, tell your spouse that you love them, you’re thankful for them, and focus on all the things you love about them. 

So then, Rick, I always loved him, but it was the behavioral stuff, and then it changed him. He started taking days off, like he would plan a vacation. I was like, Who are you? But it’s because I changed, too. I wasn’t making him feel frustrated towards me. 

V: What is it that you love [about being an officer’s wife]? And what is it that you still struggle with?

K: I like to learn how to adapt. The kids are older now, too, which makes a big difference. I don’t really get as frustrated over it. I call it acceptance. Look, I’ve accepted that this is a part of our life and don’t fight it anymore. I used to fight it. Rick would get scheduled—he gets a new schedule every 30 days—and it does not match up with the calendar month. So it’s a blast. And it’s different times, different days. 

I embraced that I’m a part of it. I’m his partner and it impacts me. I’m doing a service for the community. I think if you embrace what comes with it and acknowledge that you’re sacrificing things too… Then it kind of gives you purpose.

V: During Black Lives Matter, knowing that he’s going out and experiencing all of those things, and not wanting to bring them home – how did you support him? How did y’all navigate communication during that? 

K: For Rick, it’s best if I don’t push him to talk about it too much. 

Our first year of marriage, he was working on South Central gangs. It’s one of the low-income, high-crime areas in the country. He comes home and I ask him about work. Like, tell me about it, I need to know about your work. I was a new wife, I didn’t know not to push. He would say, “They just keep shooting each other. I don’t want to talk about that. It’s not fun for me to talk about.” I’ll never forget that. That really hit me hard. Yeah, he doesn’t want to talk about it at the end of the day, he just wants to move forward. 

During that time, though, I was like, “Okay, I need to know, I’m seeing cops on the news. I’m seeing pictures. Like, is that you? Are you out there?” And that was okay. I think he is okay, sometimes talking to me. But besides that, I don’t push. I’ve learned that just taking care of the house and being normal with the kids, just being a normal family, that’s what he needs. And that’s what helps him.

V: What are your thoughts on the critique that ‘all officers are bad, because of the system they’re a part of’? 

K: I like to tell my kids like most people are good people. I feel that way. Most people are good people, some people make bad decisions. Cops are in a very black and white kind of world where they could make a bad decision. It’s a very dramatic decision that they have to make in seconds, and nobody can understand that. I can’t understand that. Nobody can unless they do it themselves. 

A lot of them [officers] actually come from not wonderful backgrounds, like maybe they grew up poor. That’s the reason they knew officers, they interacted with them a lot. My husband went into it, his dad was a cop and wanted to make the community better. I believe they [officers] do, but the news does not show that, the media does not show all the times they actually helped. And there’s a lot. 

I remember one time, there was a gang that was taking over an apartment complex. Families were living there, and this gang, they’re dealing drugs, and bossing around management. Rick went in with evidence and was removing them, and a mom whispered to him, thank you. Like, she had to whisper it. That’s how bad things are. Even then, I think the media would make it look bad, as if they’re kicking out these gang members who- Yeah, I think even gang members, they didn’t want to grow up and be a gang. 

V: And you’ve mentioned you’re writing a book? 

I wrote a little fast one answering everything that wasn’t easily answered through a quick DM. In it, there’s a ten day challenge practicing acceptance, independence, and self care. Like, if I know he’s working weekends a lot, I plan to hang out with friends so I’m not alone. It’s very practical.

The second one, though, I’m writing this devotional which is designed [around] the spirituality of being a police wife. So it’s like, you have a Bible verse, a story, an example, and a prayer. The devotional is centered around gratitude and positive aspects. It takes a lot of vulnerability to discuss those growth moments. I’m hoping it will help other wives grow and feel more heard. 

V: What was it that spurred that decision, or rather how are you able to be so vulnerable?

K: Honestly, I remember Googling [about other wives’ experiences], like before I started putting my own stuff out there and I didn’t find what I needed. I didn’t feel heard. I didn’t feel seen. I needed somebody else to tell me I’ve been through exactly what you have. And you’re not alone. Not just the general facts, but their experiences. It was huge for me, having children that depend on you. Like that was really where I feel like the stuff hit the fan for us in our marriage— it complicated things, heightened my resentment. Vulnerability, it comes with age. I should say that I’m a little bit older. And I think that helps. Like I am who I am. 

Edited for clarity and concision. 

Victoria Winter is trying to prove that nothing human is alien to us. On paper, she is a second year student at Seattle Central College, potentially majoring in anthropology and philosophy. In reality, she is fascinated by using the mediums of photojournalism and writing to explore subcultures - the fringes, the limelight, and everything in between. She is in love with humans. Her only firm beliefs are that everything should be explored and most things are easier at night.

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