By Suzie Ziegler
RICHMOND HEIGHTS, Ohio — A police department in Ohio has launched a new program to help support spouses and significant others of law enforcement officers. The Spouses/Partners Virtual Academy aims to “provide strategies for developing and maintaining successful personal relationships,” according to organizers.
The inaugural event on Jan. 23 brought together over a dozen significant others on Zoom. Attendees and guest speakers discussed the importance of health and wellness in policing.
Richmond Heights Police Chief Tom Wetzel says each event will focus on a different aspect of policing and feature special guests. The next event on Feb. 20 is slated to discuss managing marriages.
“The goal is to make their relationship with that officer better and healthier to provide for long-term relationships to help officers survive this career,” said Wetzel. “If the officer has a happy family life, it’s going to make the officer a happier cop too. The program also provides a deeper understanding for those who care about the officer – significant others, spouses, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends – about things like stress, PTSD or the damages from rotating shifts. It provides some insight for the partners on why an officer may behave a certain way and then provide strategies for addressing that.”
During the first event last month, Wetzel says it was hard to keep a dry eye.
“It was a really powerful experience, with what some of the wives talked about such as getting calls about their husband being involved in a shooting,” he said. “It allowed other partners who may not have experienced that to understand.”
Holly Kohler, who attended the event, has been married to a Richmond Heights police officer for 22 years. Her husband was a guest speaker on mental wellness.
Kohler says a sense of community was a big benefit of the event.
“It’s nice to listen to others talk about their experiences,” she said. “It makes you feel like you’re not alone.”
After more than two decades of marriage, Kohler has two pieces of advice for police spouses: patience and mutual respect.
Wetzel says he got the idea of a “spouse academy” from similar programs like citizen academies. Looking ahead to a future without COVID-19, Wetzel says he hopes to expand the program to an in-person, multi-day event.
Interested in attending the next session on Feb. 20? Spouses, partners and significant others of law enforcement officers can sign up by contacting Officer Tim Casto at email@example.com or (216) 383 -6305.
See below for an itinerary and details about upcoming events: