ATLANTA — From death threats on social media to next-door neighbors giving them dirty looks, the families of Atlanta Police Department officers tell Channel 2 Action News that they’re mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted.
It comes after a series of protests and shootings involving police officers and officers being charged over their alleged actions.
Now, four women who are married to Atlanta police officers are speaking out to give us a unique perspective of what it’s been like to watch their loved ones forced to face the pandemic and protests.
“I’m definitely worried about his physical and mental well-being,” one wife told us.
“If he’s coming home from work and wants to check the mail before he comes in, he’s not going to do it while he’s in uniform,” another wife said.
“It’s been really, really stressful. When COVID first broke out, they had no days off. They had mandatory 12-hour shifts. They’re exhausted,” a third wife said.
“There’s been a lot of families at APD where not only the officers tested positive, but their children tested positive. And they’re sick, and spouses are sick,” the fourth wife said.
The women asked to have their identities concealed over fear for their own families’ safety, especially their husbands who are serving on the front lines during the pandemic and protests.
“I remember when he just felt just happy to go into work, and then you see him suiting up … the difference in the personality,” one wife said.
“It’s really heartbreaking to see them just so underappreciated by the people that they have sacrificed so much for,” another wife said.
For most of the summer, the women told Channel 2′s Michael Seiden that they sat back and watched as peaceful protests following the death of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks exploded into violence and pure chaos.
They said they watched in horror as protesters hopped on top of a police cruiser outside the CNN Center in downtown Atlanta and lit the car on fire while vandals hurled rocks and bottles at officers.
“My husband was down at CNN, and having to deal with the bricks being thrown at him or spit at by the protesters,” one wife said. “How would you feel if you were having blocks and bricks and frozen bottles of unknown substances thrown at you?”
“My husband had the biggest. One was the size of a huge grapefruit on the back of his leg. A block was thrown at him, and (it was) a big concrete block,” another wife said.
But Seiden found out the officers aren’t the only ones who are being targeted. Their families are no longer finding peace in the comfort of their own homes. There have been reports of death threats and vandalism.
“It’s been a lot. Certain things like him coming home, making sure he’s not being followed — that we are not being followed,” one of the women said.
Another mother said her teenage children are also dealing with criticism coming from their closest friends.
“The hardest part for the older kids is having them watch their friends post things on social media,” the mother said.
Every day, they watch their husbands put on their uniforms and head out into chaos.
“The frustrating thing is when it turned into the riots, everybody just started to throw them in a bucket. Everybody was stereotyping them,” another wife said.
The women said they want the public to know that police are listening to their cries for reform and racial justice.
“We have a lot of good officers who want to implement the change in their own communities where their families still live,” one of the wives said.
They told Seiden that it starts with understanding policies and procedures.
“News flash, everyone! Those chokeholds haven’t been used in a couple of decades. News flash! I hope that you hear this message. Chokeholds and those articles that you’re ready online — they have never been trained to use. They’re banned,” one of the women said.
Another officer's wife shared this story after her husband arrested an unruly protester.
“‘I don’t understand why police do blah, blah and chokeholds,' and he calmly explained to her that in Atlanta, these things aren’t part of the policy. They’re not what we are taught to do. We have GBI that investigates, and she looked at him and said, ‘If I would’ve known that, I would’ve never came,’” the wife said.
With morale at an all-time low, combined with what they perceive as a lack of support from elected leaders, many APD officers say they are looking to move on.
It’s a decision that these families believe will become more common if the police and the public don’t learn to coexist.
“To condemn the entire profession unnecessarily … it’s not fair,” one of the women said.
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