Cote, the woman behind the Instagram account @ammoandgrace, gently touches her husband’s police jacket with a shaky, reverent hand as she begins her five-verse prayer. Her arm is sheathed in a nubby gray sweatshirt, the words “pray always” embroidered on the sleeve, just below a bright white heart, outlined and struck through with a thick band of electric blue. Coldplay’s “Yellow” soars in the background as she types out the devotionals, worship by way of Instagram Reel:
My officer does not fear, because God is with him. My officer is not discouraged, because God strengthens him. He is held up by the Lord’s righteous, victorious hand. [Isaiah 41:10]
My officer has a heart of discernment. He is able to tell right from wrong. He can govern, and walks in obedience with God. [1 Kings 3:9,14]
The Lord has trained my officer’s hands for war and his fingers for battle. He is my officer’s stronghold, deliverer, and shield. [Psalm 144:1-2]
My officer stands firm. Nothing can move him. He works for the Lord, with his full heart, and his work is never in vain. [1 Corinthians 15:58]
My officer is a peacemaker. He is a child of God. [Matthew 5:9]
That last line flashes over a dreamily filtered photo of a mason jar filled with bullets. This is peak Cop Wife content.
The concept of Blue Life was born on Facebook shortly after two NYPD officers were shot and killed while sitting in their squad car in December 2014. This was just a few months after Ferguson Police Department officers left Mike Brown for dead in the street and a New York Police Department cop choked Eric Garner to death on camera. From the police perspective, the killing of two of their own meant the War on Cops was fucking on. At the same time, the boys in blue needed unwavering support from their brothers and sisters in digital arms to survive the sudden onslaught of bad press, vague gestures towards police reform, and a rise in public consciousness about police violence. The first Blue Lives Matter Facebook group was created by anonymous officers as a space where cops and their loved ones could openly support police.
That page — and the sense of terrified embattlement behind it — became the foundation of cop culture online. The culture has since spawned a thriving network of meme accounts that mock victims of police violence; cop thirst-trap TikToks to #humanizethebadge; and a number of online storefronts hawking beer koozies, thongs, baby onesies, scented candles, and Christmas wreaths branded with the black, white, and blue U.S. flag synonymous with pro-police sentiment.
The Cop Wife’s social media sphere is a natural spin-off of this world. The Blue Lives Matter movement seized upon the call to defend Black life from police violence and bastardized it, and the insistence that blue wives matter, too, bolsters that redirection. Cop Wives sell t-shirts, mugs, and bumper stickers with the phrase “because he’s mine, I walk the line” in swoopy white letters. He can’t be a fascist — he’s got a family at home, and we love him very much!
On social media, the Cop Wife is invariably white, Christian, middle class, and a mother of at least two. On Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, and the occasional shitty WordPress blog, she participates in #LEOWifeLife (LEO is “law enforcement officer,” for the unanointed). She is part of a sisterhood bound together by the badge. They know how it feels when, oh my God, when he gets off shift way too late to tuck Wyatt and Remington into bed, when you have to reschedule Thanksgiving because he’s out shooting baddies, when you’re doing his laundry and you find bullets in the washing machine — again! And they coexist in the ouroboros of #FollowFridays, promos, giveaways, and collabs that bind all influencers together.
Cop Wife content is a sinister mutation of “live laugh love”-core — that combination of inspirational word art plus aspirational lifestyle content made for HGTV acolytes who are active on NextDoor. She uses the same computer-generated cursive, letter boards and flat lays that are the bread and butter of regular mommy bloggers, but she works in a strict color palette — black, white, and blues — on simple subject matter. She weaves unwitting connections between carceral violence and domesticity with handles like @heelsandholster, homemade handcuff napkin holders (slot the napkin in where the wrists would go) and sugar cookies iced black and rendered Blue with a line of navy down the middle. She posts to commiserate about the unique trials of being married to a cop, especially in America, especially “right now.” (According to Google Trends, searches for “police wife” hit a recorded high in June 2020.)
Like plenty of other stay-at-home mothers, the Cop Wife works around the irregular schedule of a man who’s rarely there to help her shoulder the burdens of middle-class domesticity. But unlike women whose husbands stock grocery store shelves or drive people to the airport, the Cop Wife isn’t just serving her husband; she’s serving her country with the domestic labor she does at home to keep her Cop happy and able to dole out violence on the state’s behalf. Her desperate need for validation, to be seen as more than just another housewife, is a window into the rot at America’s core. Our country’s adulation of the police, the flag-bearers of fascism, runs so deep that marrying one is a patriotic sacrifice that confers womanhood’s highest virtue. By extension, if you really think about it, the Cop Wife’s work keeps society at large from slipping into lawlessness, disorder, blue blood in the streets, which is why she invariably self-describes as “brave” and “strong.”
Still, she spends the vast majority of her time doing the labor that keeps her household running smoothly — all the laundry, cooking, cleaning, and child care duties her husband is too busy “defending the defenseless” to participate in. Her life is defined by the cop-shaped hole in her house: the empty seat at the dinner table and the indent on his side of the bed that she falls asleep next to. Her mental state rests on his schedule. On Instagram, @heelsandholster, otherwise known as Kristen, wiggles in front of the camera, lip-syncing to a particularly chaotic audio clip, while spooning meatballs onto a hot dog bun as a demonstration of “police wife brain when hubby’s been working too much overtime.”
So, the Cop’s absence hurts — but it imbues her drudgery with a higher purpose. She’s duty-bound and heaven-sent, battlefield nurse to her foot soldier in the War on Crime. Could her officer go out every day to face wave after unrelenting wave of Evil without clean socks and a tupperware of her “firecracker chicken”? Of course not.
U.S. police training frames the job as a constant barrage of peril and crisis. This narrative serves as a neat justification for police violence: If the cop is always under attack, then anything he does is self-defense. And everything the Cop Wife does is an offensive maneuver against anyone who questions the narrative. Scroll through a Cop Wife blog and you’ll find thousands of words dedicated to her sacred terror: guides to praying for him and ways to practice self-care against the backdrop of unwaning anxiety. If she’s anxious and afraid all the time then the danger must be real.
Cop wives imagine dangers, haters, and opps all around, and so they reach for each other in the absence of their men. Rebecca, a proud police wife (@proudpwife), has a message for her sisters:
When I hear police wives/gfs//fiancé’s struggling
I SEE YOU
I’M HERE FOR YOU
This message is delivered from her car’s beige interior, Rebecca’s pencil-liner rimmed eyes swimming behind porno librarian glasses, a sympathetic grimace twisting her lips. “I know some days are harder than others. I know this lifestyle is not for the weak,” she elaborates in the caption. “But I also know that if you are struggling, chances are, hundreds or maybe even thousands of other police spouses are struggling, too. Today I just want you to know you are not alone. I see you. I’m here for you always. #policewife #proudpolicewife #leow #policewifelife #leowife #copswife #gotyoursix #defendthepolice #backtheblue #lawenforcement.”
She’s posting in the spirit of @policewivesunited. She’s reaching out to the only women who could possibly understand her, offering support and clearly aching for it herself. She gets 1,033 likes, 15,100 views, and more than 40 comments.
By her own account (on her own account), the Cop Wife’s life is a cocktail of defensiveness, anger, fear, and despair, all overlaid with exasperated fidelity. What does the Cop Wife have when she puts down her phone? The Cop Wife’s existence, she has to insist, is more than deeply Christian — it’s Christ-like. Her husband is Jesus and she’s Jesus too. It almost makes all the laundry worth it.
Katie Way is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor who covers internet culture, policing, and drugs. She is currently a senior staff writer at VICE.