Nonprofit Helps Wives of Peace Officers Find Community, Support, and Marriage Coaching

Nonprofit Helps Wives of Peace Officers Find Community, Support, and Marriage Coaching
Crystal Ienni and her husband in his uniform. (Courtesy of Crystal Ienni)
Bethany Crouch

A nonprofit in California is dedicated to the mission of providing healthy homes for those who serve.

Crystal Ienni started Peace Officer Wives of California in 2017. She and her team coach other wives (husbands also welcome) on how to support the mental health and wellbeing of their peace officer partner at home.

As a peace officer’s wife of 15 years, Ienni was inspired to create what she personally needed: a support system and a resource center.

Ienni witnesses how her husband’s job keeps him in a state of heightened alert.

“His safety in the field depends on it,” she told The Epoch Times.

When he’s home, hypervigilance decompression is essential for health and wellbeing. This requires the officer and his or her family to have an understanding and awareness of its effects and how to navigate those effects.

“When he’s with me and the kids, when he’s off the clock, that’s his time to relax, to turn off the hypervigilance,” said Ienni.

She recognizes her role in creating a supportive home environment.

“My officer may need to come home and veg out on the couch or be in silence for a while. Both are okay,” she said.

Due to the nature of the work, many officers and their families tend to isolate, Ienni said. Part of the organization’s goal centers around creating community.

Peace Officer Wives of California is a support system and a bridge for the ones who love those who serve. Ienni said that it has grown primarily through word of mouth.

“It’s all about establishing trust,” she said.

Through their online community and in-person events, participants learn good communication practices, how to establish boundaries, and how to manage expectations. Ienni said helping the families understand about life in this field of work can make all the difference for peace officers and their loved ones.

On the Peace Officer Wives of California website, Ienni includes downloadable PDFs, resources, and prompts for couples to navigate difficult conversations, including how to create a living will. Ienni built in a workbook to prepare families in case something happens and the officer is unable to make decisions.

“Things you might not necessarily think of without prompting from questions,” she said.

Nationally, leaders are aware that law enforcement agencies need mental health support for their service member teams. In an executive order released May 25, President Joe Biden tasked the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services with publishing a best practices report “to address law enforcement officer wellness, including support for officers experiencing substance use disorders, mental health issues, or trauma from their duties.”

The report is due Nov. 21, 2022. From there, the Attorney General and all other Federal Law Enforcement Agency heads will assess their own federal officer wellness practices and policies to develop and implement changes.

Retired Mountain View Police Chief Max Bosel said having organic programs like Ienni’s available as a resource “can only do good.” He believes the aforementioned best practices report could include the Peace Officer Wives of California initiative.

Bosel said Ienni’s organization has credibility with officers and families because it comes from outside the agency.

“Crystal’s efforts are unique because they focus on the family at home as well as the faith perspectives,” Bosel told The Epoch Times.

Even if the nonprofit doesn’t touch every officer directly, Bosel believes that the Peace Officer Wives of California makes a difference through helping to build healthier mindsets and encouraging family engagement.

“It takes a village; in many ways that’s true,” he said.

Susanna Smith (name changed to protect anonymity) is a mother and peace officer’s wife. She is grateful for the nonprofit. When she discovered Peace Officer Wives of California, she immediately got involved.

“It is very neat to have a safe place where everyone knows what you’re going through without even having to say a word,” she told The Epoch Times.

Smith began attending events, making new friends, and connecting other Peace Officer wives, girlfriends, fiancées, and mothers to the group.

Earlier this summer, Smith was unexpectedly hospitalized. At the same time, her grandmother passed away.

“It all came at once,” she said.

With her peace officer husband’s full work schedule and navigating life with their son who has high-functioning autism, Smith said she was overwhelmed to learn that the nonprofit stepped in with groceries.

“We couldn’t think about food, and we didn’t have to. It was all there. The refrigerator was full. It was so relaxing. We are just so grateful for this organization,” she said.

The in-person Peace Officer Wives of California events and online meetings create a safe place for connection, friendship, guidance, mentoring, inspiration, and education. The organization also offers family debriefings following tragedy.

“Critical work incidents can cause trauma for an officer, and the home life is impacted too. As an organization, we have debriefings for the family and loved ones. It’s important for the health of the home because the loved ones are feeling that trauma too,” Ienni said.

Having weathered the pandemic by taking offerings online, Peace Officer Wives of California is in its fifth year. Ienni is now partnering with other nonprofits, including the horse-therapy-based DreamPower in Gilroy.

“They’re great,” said Ienni. “DreamPower has an array of equine-assisted activities and therapies. We’ll be using them as a resource for our law enforcement families.”

On Aug. 20, the community is invited to attend their annual Corks and Coppers BBQ fundraiser with live music in Hollister.

“This event is meant to bring the law enforcement community back out and together,” Ienni said.

All money raised is to support officers and their families, including programs like the Wise Women conference happening this September in Gilroy.

“[Wise Women] is a time for us to pour into the women so the women can bring that support into the home. We train the women the same way the officers get trained, but we cater to the feminine side,” said Ienni.

For Ienni, the nonprofit is about helping every law enforcement marriage and family succeed.

“That’s the goal,” she said. “So much is sacrificed, I really want to see these law enforcement families thrive.”

Bethany Crouch is a professional storyteller, media liaison, and consultant. For 20 years, she served as a news producer, reporter, anchor, and writer on both TV and radio from South Dakota to Washington state and California. She is a nature enthusiast, a student of awareness, and a roller-skating lover.
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