The Council of Metropolitan Police and Sheriffs (COMPAS) is requesting that the Washington Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) issue a public apology for their actions in relation to COMPAS Executive Director Renee Maher and Behind the Badge Program Director Gayle Frink-Schulz.
On Wednesday, January 22, at 3:30 pm in Olympia, Washington, there was a hearing on Senate Bill 6225, a bill that creates a license plate for the FOP. Members of the Washington Fraternal Order of Police attended the hearing to support the bill. Other law enforcement advocacy organizations such as Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs (WACOPS) and COMPAS attended to oppose it. The FOP brought along several guests, including a woman whose brother was a deputy who committed suicide. Her testimony to the Transportation committee spoke of the terrible tragedy of her brother’s loss.
Gayle Frink-Schulz spoke on behalf of Behind the Badge, a charitable organization that receives funding from its own license plate. Funding pays for the maintenance of the law enforcement memorial in Olympia, helps pay for funerals of fallen officers and provides on-going events and support for those left behind. Ms. Frink-Schulz is the surviving spouse of Washington State Trooper Steve Frink who died in the line of duty on March 22, 1993.
Executive Director Renee Maher testified on behalf of COMPAS. She enthusiastically supported the idea of finding resources to help officers in crisis but expressed concerns that law enforcement supporters would be forced to choose between the FOP license and Behind the Badge license resulting in reduced funds to the only organization in the state that assists survivor families. Ms. Maher is the surviving spouse of Federal Way Officer Patrick Maher who was shot and killed in the line of duty on August 2, 2003.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the woman who testified on behalf of the FOP turned toward Ms. Frink-Schulz and started screaming at her. She pointed her finger and yelled to Ms. Frink-Schulz that “you should be ashamed of yourself!” She continued to scream and berate Ms. Frink-Schulz. Upon approaching Ms. Maher, she stopped, pointed her finger and screamed that Ms. Maher should be ashamed as well. This behavior was completely unprovoked. The woman continued to scream and yell insults directed at Ms. Maher and Ms. Frink-Schulz even after leaving the committee room but while still standing in the hallway. One of the members of the FOP put his arm around Ms. Maher and instead of offering an apology or words of comfort, he directed her to go speak to a particular legislator before she “stepped in it again.”
While we do not hold the FOP accountable for the words or actions of this distraught woman, we do believe that the FOP’s disparaging remarks to Ms. Maher immediately after one of their guests verbally accosted her was demeaning and unprofessional. Members of the FOP walked away with no apology and no acknowledgement of their guest’s hostile actions directed at two women with decades-long reputations for supporting law enforcement officers and their families.
We insist that the Washington State Fraternal Order of Police issue a public apology to Ms. Maher and Ms. Frink-Schulz. Politics can be a very difficult business, filled with passion and emotion. But there is no excuse and no justification for allowing two line of duty surviving spouses to endure name-calling and screamed insults in the name of politics.