Community Advocacy in Law Enforcement

Kelli Lowe discusses advocacy for law enforcement during the events of Ferguson.

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Kelli Lowe is a national speaker, an advocate, and one of the first people that her local department calls during crisis situations. She is a valuable member of our blue family community for many reasons. Kelli serves as a Board member of the National Police Wives Association, and advocates nationwide for law enforcement. She is an LEO wife who has had a unique experience with the culture of law enforcement as a black woman. Through her advocacy and determination, she was able to influence and inspire the law enforcement community during the Ferguson events.

NOTE: My interview with Kelli was long and I have broken it up into two podcasts.  One about her experience with Ferguson and one on advocacy.  

Riots in the streets

For those that may not remember or are too young to remember, Ferguson refers to the riots that occurred in Ferguson and St. Louis, Missouri after a white officer shot an unarmed black teen.

Kelli’s husband is an officer with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and, at the time, Kelli was the President of the local chapter of National Police wives.“As a black woman, and the spouse of a police officer, there are so many things that I can see that led to the divisiveness and conflict that happened in Ferguson and the high emotions that went on. The biggest thing was social media.” As a person who was “on the ground” Kelli recalled the narrative of the event starting as an officer who shot an unharmed person with their hands up. It was on every radio, cell phone, and social media outlet. Overnight it blew up and within 48 hours, officers were working overtime with no breaks for food or water. They were drained and simply unable to get the resources they needed. The Department was not prepared for the events that were taking place and anyone on the outside who wanted to help didn’t know how or were fearful to try.

Moments of courage

Kelli realized that her husband and other officers did not have a key resource to do their job. Food!

“We need to feed them!”

The first step was finding a team of the bravest spouses. Together they would run command posts and pull together all the resources possible to help their officers. The most important of which was food.

Kelli and the spouses worked with restaurants in the area to provide food and drink for the officers through the riot; one was the local McDonald’s. Initially, the need for food could not be met due to the large quantity needed all at once. Kelli asked a simple question. “How many can you make every hour?” The focus was on the mindset of what could be done rather than what couldn’t. McDonald’s provided 100 hamburgers every hour for five hours to feed officers.

Courage went beyond setting up a (central location) and gathering food.  It also meant getting in and delivering it at times.  On the first night of bringing in food, there was a roadblock of Black Panthers who were stopping anyone with supplies.

“I said, load it into the back of my car and these people looked at me like, what do you mean? Are you going into the war zone?  I told them, load it in the back of my car. I’m a black woman. I don’t have on any police gear. They’re not going to know who I am. That’s not what they’re out there for and I understood that because I understand what protest is. I’m an African American woman who grew up in a very educated family. So, I understood. I’m going to go down there. I’m gonna ask the Panthers to let me pass, and they’re gonna let me pass. And they did.”

Building community

These women became a community of spouses who wanted to continue to help. Six to eight women at a time chose to sit in the command post to make sure officers had whatever they needed, whether it be locating more resources or providing reliable information to spouses on the outside.

The command post wasn’t in the safest area, but they were ALL willing to be in the more dangerous spots. They understood that if something happened in that command post, they weren’t necessarily going to be protected. There were spouses on the outside who needed information from command and not third-party Facebook posters. The risk was worth it.

874 bodies out and 874 bodies back in.

One of the worst nights in Ferguson was the night it was announced that Officer Wilson would not be indicted. 874 officers went out that night, and there were four or five spouses to serve them. Those spouses stood in the command post, watched the officers get ready, and listened to the chaos on the radios. They lined up at the door of the command post and every officer received a hug, high five, or fist bump.

“You going out.  You coming back in. When you come back in, we’ll be here.” Every officer was fed that night.  At 7 p.m. that night, Kelli said “874 bodies out” and at 4:30 a.m. the next day, she was able to say “874 bodies back in.”

Kelli saw what needed to be done to make a positive impact on the law enforcement community during the events of Ferguson.  She had the power to motivate, network, and be resourceful. The National Police Wives local chapter continues to support and advocate for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department‘s officers and their families.

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Community Advocacy in Law Enforcement

Kelli Lowe discusses advocacy for law enforcement during the events of Ferguson.

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Podcasts