Behind the Badge brings department family together
Published: May 13, 2008 | 7031st good news item since 2003
Doing police work 24/7 can seem like a never-ending carousel — a revolving door of officers jumping on and off, at all hours of the day, as they serve the public.
It’s a different kind of public service. Different from working at City Hall or working 9 to 5. It’s constant, and often without reward.
It can wear on officers; hurt departmental retention. And, it’s something that not only officers deal with but it affects their families, too.
Sensing a need to find a morale booster and common denominator among his officers, Rolla Police Chief Mark Kearse, last October, sought to instill a more family atmosphere in the department. To accomplish that, Kearse assembled a group of people he knew would have his officers’ ears — their wives.
“It was my job to facilitate their meeting,” Kearse said of gathering spouses. “I got them together, and then I turned it over to them, and it’s been great.”
Now seven months old, the assemblage is a support group — not only for the officers, their wives and their children, but for others in the community as well.
Their commonality and desire to mutually assist led to naming their group “Behind the Badge.” It’s both a description and a motto.
“There is a huge network of spouses at the Police Department. We have answers, solutions and possibilities,” said D’ettra Kearse, who co-founded the group with Christy Moberly, Melinda Lauth and Paula Volkmer. Moberly is a 17-year receptionist whose husband is Sgt. Kenny Moberly. Lauth, who teaches first-grade, is married to Officer Anthony Lauth, and Volkmer is the department’s Director of Communications.
“We started having monthly meetings, and then this thing snowballed into a fantastic success,” said D’ettra Kearse, who said the group is not just about helping and supporting police officers.
“Just this (Tuesday) morning, we helped a woman in need get to Waynesville,” D’ettra Kearse said. “We support each other, but our group is about more than just helping each other.”
An example of that community spirit, was the group’s recent trip to Presbyterian Manor, where the police auxiliary group of wives, police staff members and children helped seniors with a spring planting of seeds.
“It was a great time,” Melinda Lauth said. “I think we enjoyed it as much as (the seniors) did.
“This started out as a group to support one another, but it’s grown to be much more than that,” Lauth said. “It’s not easy being a cop’s wife, and we support each other first. Then comes the outreach.”
Still, the intent of the group, that now numbers 30, is to bring the Police Department together.
“I think by bringing in the spouses, we firmed up the Rolla Police Department family,” said D’ettra Kearse.
It is that sentiment that appeals to Moberly, who is both an officer’s wife and who works as a department receptionist.
“It used to be, he didn’t have anyone but me for emotional support,” Moberly said.
“They don’t always want to bring that home, so they’d put that in a shell. Now, it’s different.”
Still, with officers, their husbands and spouses coming and going at various times, the women “Behind the Badge” strive to bring the department closer.
“We started having ‘shift-change gatherings,’” said D’ettra Kearse, explaining they have informal get-togethers at varied shift changes to include officers who work midnights just as they would include those who work daytime hours.
“It allows people a little exchange among the staff, and we try to do these on all shifts,” she said.
The group also conducts bake and garage sales, and most recently was instrumental in helping Police Department custodian Jim Duncan recover from flood damage to his home located along the Gasconade River.
“I was so proud of these ladies,” Chief Kearse said. “They probably raised $3- to $4,000 to help with his recovery effort. They arranged help from the Police Department and Sheriff’s Department. They probably got $6,000 worth of materials.”
Today, the group is sponsoring a bake sale during the “Get Your Picture with a Cop” benefit from 4 to 7 p.m. at Wal-Mart. The event is a precursor to National Police Week, which begins Sunday.
Another fundraiser later this month, on May 27, the group is doing a “Tip a Cop” benefit from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 27, at Pizza Inn, and they have plans for a concession booth during Summerfest.
During the holidays, when the group was less than two months old, it arranged to help 27 “Little Angels” during the holidays, buying gifts for needy children. They also contributed to the Sheriff’s Department “Shop with a Cop” benefit, which bought Christmas gifts for needy children.
“A lot of what we do is get back to the basics, helping family and friends,” D’ettra Kearse said.