Group stands behind "thin, blue line"
by Madasyn Czebiniak
mczebiniak@annistonstar.com
Feb 09, 2014 | 7498 views |  0 comments | 76 76 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Members of Calhoun Women Behind the Badge. Back row, from left: Kim Hewitt, Kim Stephenson, Kristy Cone, Kim Buckalew, Michelle Yancey, Alison Ference. Front row, from left: Alsie White, Jamie Bush, Anjuli Thompson, Brooklyn Harrington, Jen Hartley, Crystal Casey.
Members of Calhoun Women Behind the Badge. Back row, from left: Kim Hewitt, Kim Stephenson, Kristy Cone, Kim Buckalew, Michelle Yancey, Alison Ference. Front row, from left: Alsie White, Jamie Bush, Anjuli Thompson, Brooklyn Harrington, Jen Hartley, Crystal Casey.
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Calhoun Women Behind the Badge founder Anjuli Thompson is adamant about one thing: Members of the group don’t just sit around and talk about their husbands.

Thompson created the group three years ago. It’s made up of wives, fiances, girlfriends and mothers of county law enforcement officers. The group is a certified nonprofit fraternal organization and a Fraternal Order of Police auxiliary.

Kim Buckalew, who is married to retired Anniston police Lt. Russell Buckalew, said the organization is something that has always been needed in Calhoun County. Before the death of Anniston police officer Justin Sollohub in August 2011, there wasn’t much camaraderie among the law enforcement wives in the county, she said.

“Then Justin was killed and we were all so devastated,” Buckalew said. “We all wanted to be able to support other police families, too, like Justin and the Heflin police officer, Jackie Stovall, that got shot.”

Stovall was wounded in December 2012 in a shootout in Oxford with a suspect he’d chased from Heflin.

Thompson, who is married to Brian Thompson with the Calhoun Cleburne Drug and Violent Crime Task Force, created a support group on Facebook after Sollohub’s death. Less than three months later, the organization was officially chartered as an FOP auxiliary.

Kim Stephenson, who works as an Oxford police dispatcher, agreed that the community needs a group like theirs. Stephenson’s boyfriend, Donny Smith, is a senior patrolman with Anniston police.

Stephenson said she sometimes gets nervous when Smith goes out on a call because she knows what’s at stake and what could happen.

“I do worry about him when he goes out, but it’s not like he’s going out there alone,” she said. “They have a team behind them there, like we have a team behind us here.”

Brooklyn Harrington, who went from girlfriend to wife of Anniston police investigator Jay Harrington during her time with the group, said one of the best things about the organization is the diversity. Even though she is a strong person, other members might not be, and they complement one another, she said.

Other members agreed.

“This is a really good group,” said Jamie Bush, the wife of Weaver police Chief Wayne Bush. “I don’t have a lot of police-wife friends. I thought it was just me.”

The organization has 23 members, but none from Ohatchee or Piedmont, which Thompson hopes to change. Thompson said the group is open to anyone 18 or older who is related or dating a law enforcement officer. The group also welcomes people directly related to FOP members.

“We also allow members dating police officers, male or female,” Thompson said. “We have never been approached by a male for membership.”

Each year, the organization donates a $1,000 Child of Law Enforcement scholarship and helps organize activities for Police Week. This year, plans for Police Week, May 12-17, include a candlelight vigil and a memorial service for fallen law enforcement officers and a ball to celebrate the accomplishments of county law enforcement officers.

Thompson said it has been difficult to get word of the organization out.

“If we get more people involved, we can possibly add more to our scholarship fund,” Thompson said. “It’s been a whirlwind and we have so few members it’s been difficult to accomplish everything we want to accomplish. We want people to be more aware of the good things in policing.”

The group meets the first Thursday of each month at the FOP lodge in Weaver. There is a $30 membership fee to join. The organization is also selling T-shirts for $15 and cookbooks for $10. All proceeds support the activities they will participate in throughout the year.

Staff writer Madasyn Czebiniak: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @MCzebiniak_Star.

Editor's note: This story has been modified to correct errors in the prices for cookbooks and T-shirts sold by Calhoun Women Behind the Badge.
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