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My Reality with Reality TV

A few weeks ago, Mike & I were contacted by Mercedes Collazo, a Casting Producer for Fremantle Media who stated,

“I am reaching out to you regarding a TV docu-series about the lives of police wives. We are looking to give an ensemble of dynamic women a platform to show the world an insider look into their everyday lives; married to men called to duty in the noble and dangerous realm of policing. The show would feature the lives of an authentic group of police wives who have bonded with one another through their husbands’ jobs.”

This is not the first time we have been contacted by a producer regarding a show or some other type of project looking for feedback or ideas.  When this happens we’re always careful to verify their identity and credibility and, in fact, most who do contact us have legitimate motives of progressing and promoting the profession in a healthy manner.  So as always, we did our due diligence with an open mind.

What intrigued me about this project and gave me hope was the term “docu-series.”  Police wives, partners, & husbands are the angels behind the badge that serve and protect to keep their officer’s world safe on the home front.  We do battles in ways no one notices and we do not call attention to what we do.  We just do it because we love our officer and we believe in the profession so, if there is a documentary that would truly sing the praises of our silent unsung heroes, I was wholeheartedly on board.  I am committed to promoting the good of the profession and I have a special place in my heart for those who love the one who carries the badge.  I do not believe our silent angels get enough praise or recognition.

Our usual process in vetting a project that has contacted us is to start with a simple Google search and dig from there.  Mike is especially good at this (as you might remember from a previous article, he is very good at finding prostitutes, wanted people who’d prefer that police not come knocking, and others who are up to no good by digging around online).  Both our Internet searches revealed Ms Collazo is, in fact, a casting producer and Freemantle Media is a legitimate production company tied to a number of prominent projects, most notably American Idol (However, the first warning bell to sound was she is also tied to Bridezillas and Real Housewives of Orange County).  Now, I readily admit I am a huge reality TV junkie.  Before you go hatin’ on me for this, there are many different types of reality shows.  A reality show is any show that is spontaneous dialogue and does not require a script.  The show Cops (admit it, you’ve all watched) is probably one of the first reality modern shows.

The second step was to call her, so one day in between patients I made the call and it was a lot of fun!  Mercedes was upbeat, positive, and had an exciting energy.  On this first call she directed the interview right off the bat and definitely whetted my interest; she is very good at what she does.  Also in the process of the phone call, she told me how this show is a docu-series intent on educating society about police wives.  I was told this would be a positive experience and it would not be harmful or exploitive at all….at least that was the plan at this time.

I really enjoyed the call with her and during it I had the opportunity to describe how police wives support their spouse behind the scenes and how it can be lonely.  How we often refer to ourselves as “single marrieds” because of the unusual hours of shift work, holidays away from our partner, and often going single to “plus-one” events.  Mercedes was empathetic and understanding.  She told me she could tell I was a trainer, and she loved how I put complex concepts into simple phrases and words.  She told me I would be perfect for the show and she was going to pitch me to the production staff who were about to meeting in their Hollywood offices.  Could she and the show’s producer call me later that day and could we have a Skype interview with me in the next couple of days? 

Hanging up the phone I was excited and pumped up.  So I called Mike, who was also excited and, since I’m an active Face Booker, I immediately starting posting about it.  On my personal page, my friends shared my excitement but, on our More Than a Cop page I heard skepticism about such a project and warnings to stay away. A number of other police wives had also been contacted and the reactions were wary.  But I still kept an open mind because I know I am extremely smart when it comes to human behavior.  I can see through people better than most.  Plus, I was having fun and I’m a risk taker.  We have had the opportunity to walk through many an open door that has led to a life changing opportunity, such as writing for Officer.com, so we always try to keep an open mind to new projects.

But also during this time some alarm bells were going off and I also know I will never do anything to jeopardize my reputation as a successful therapist.  That part of my life remains behind closed doors for ethical and legal reasons.  I have a solid reputation in Joliet and I did not want a season of my life to destroy what I’ve worked a life-time to achieve.  But I also know my character and have confidence in my lifestyle to know there is nothing that could be revealed that could cause doubt in me.  In fact, I think if someone were to follow me around it would be quite boring; there is simply no chaos or drama in our lives.  There is nothing that would attract the reality TV viewer and this is what prompted my next conversation with Mercedes.  I called her later that day to tell her my concerns and I was matter-of-fact and to the point.  I told her that if this is a reality TV show with manufactured relationships then I am not interested.  I also told her if she wants people who have chaos in their lives, or people who are attracted to drama, they will be very bored with me.  I stressed I would never do anything to put a bad reputation on myself, my professional career, my husband and his department, or other police wives... however, if they are looking for someone who can educate others about what it means to have a healthy and diversified life as a police wife, then I am interested. 

Needless to say the phone calls stopped.

Yesterday I read an article on Law Enforcement Today by Chaplain Allison Urbine (link below) where she expresses sage advice on not allowing the reality show world, from which I understand there are multiple casting companies seeking out police wives, into our lives.  She very eloquently states,

“As our officers serve and protect our city, we as spouses need to help in protecting our homes.”

As an active FaceBooker, I had many police wives reach out to me privately stating they would be interested in participating in a project if it does truly educate the world on who we are; there is a lot of negative press about our officers and those we love and an opportunity to dispel and counter it would be nice.

Many stated (paraphrased) “if there is anything I can do to promote healthy lifestyles and relationships in a profession that is known for their divorces, alcoholism, affairs with badge bunnies, and suicide, then I’m in!  I want to show the world that what is traditionally portrayed in police dramas, novels, and movies is not always true.  I want to show them how to make this lifestyle work, for my officer & I work are intentional about creating a life that is fun, happy, and benefits us both.  If this is a documentary where I can help to educate others and this is a positive medium to do so, I want to answer this call of duty!”

I identified with each of those wives who reached out to me, because it is my passion also to progress the profession.  It is honorable & noble and I want the world to know how special and unique it is.  I want police spouses & partners to be admired, encouraged, & praised for they are dedicated servants without the recognition. So I wish that was what I found out to be the true intent of the casting producer who called me.

I agree with Allison Urbine that we have a duty to protect our officers and home.  That is how we serve and protect.  This project was not a good fit for me and I did not feel it was the best interest of the profession or who we are as angels behind the badge.  It is my hope that there will be future opportunities to educate the public through non-traditional mediums on who we are with the dignity we deserve.  In the meantime, I will continue to keep an open mind each time an opportunity presents itself and then do my due diligence to safeguard my home, officers, & the angels behind the badge.

 

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About The Authors:

Althea Olson, LCSW has been in private practice in the Chicago suburbs since 1996. She has a Master of Social Work degree from Aurora University providing individual, couple, & group therapy to adolescents, adults, and geriatrics. Althea is also trained in Critical Incident Stress Management & is a certified divorce mediator.

Mike Wasilewski, MSW has been with a large suburban Chicago department since 1996. He holds a Master of Social Work degree from Aurora University and has served on his department’s Crisis Intervention & Domestic Violence teams. Mike is an adjunct instructor at Northwestern College.

Mike & Althea have been married since 1994 and have been featured columnists for Officer.Com since 2007. Their articles are extremely popular and they now provide the same training and information in person throughout the United States. This dynamic team was recently featured at the at the 2010 & 2011 ILEETA Conference & Exposition.

Out of their success has come the formation of More Than A Cop where the focus is providing consultation and trainings on Survival Skills Beyond The Street.

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