‘BadgeWives’ and ‘Portraits on Patrol’ Focus on Police Heroes and Family of Fallen Deputy

By Stephen Owsinski

Sometimes it does take a village, and the family of recently fallen Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Michael Magli mourning his tragic line-of-duty death (LODD) will feel the heartfelt embrace of folks whose behind-the-scenes efforts are nothing shy of poignant and altruistic, thanks to a self-explanatory group called BadgeWives…”The Family Behind the Badge.”

This is a multi-layered story about a community heralding one of its law-enforcement officers and the families of other public safety heroes who protect and serve.

With “Blue Bloods”-like familial ties, BadgeWives [a 501(c)(3) entity] is a consortium of roughly 52 members (with others pending), all of whom are significant others involved with police officers, so they surely know the pitter-patter and nerve-racking emotions with regard to the ultra-vulnerable police profession and its inherent self-sacrifice oath. No one wants that particularly dreadful knock at their door.

In that context, BadgeWives exists to “be there” when relative cohorts need pillars of support, guidance, and resources to help recoup from the horrors born of the death of a cop—their cop.

BadgeWives’ mission statement concisely encompasses their heart and soul, especially relegated for LEOs in Tampa Bay, Florida: “BadgeWives is a group for women who are looking for support and encouragement in the community whose husbands are in law enforcement. It’s not always easy to understand the complexities that are associated with their job. If we can better understand and support these issues with the help and encouragement of each other we can offer the ability to be better wives, better families and better communities.”

With the line-of-duty death of Deputy Magli on February 17, 2021, and the subsequent sobering police funeral to bid farewell to a hailed hero, the members of BadgeWives didn’t just pay respects, dab their wet eyes, and pray there are no other police fatalities. No, they did what every LEO does: They stepped forward to shine lights in otherwise darkened minds.

They pooled their hearts and resources and came up with a plan to not only honor Deputy Magli but also a cadre of other cops and their respective loved ones. And, after learning of the altruistic intent, the proverbial village stepped up beyond expectation…a feat born of a community respectful and adoring of its law enforcement officers, those boldly brave who stand guard at the gate where evil often lurks.

On Sunday, February 28, 2021, the BadgeWives crew and a litany of local entities volunteered their services and rolled out a grassroots effort to pay homage to many LEOs and their loved ones, activating the first-ever “Portraits on Patrol”:

Portraits on Patrol is a contingent of “local area photographers” manifested to “provide free family portraits for law enforcement families” and consists of over one dozen professional photography studios dedicating their time, expertise, and materials…gratis, to accommodate over 100 LEO families via advance sign-up. Pretty poignant pictures from a selfless batch of superbly focused photogs with a respectful eye on police heroes and their kindred spirits culminated in mutual kudos.

Stemming from the sad sign of our times involving raucous anti-police climate, BadgeWives had the wherewithal to take reservations and disclose the event’s location only to bona fide police personnel and their invitees, effectively preempting any would-be haters from crashing an otherwise honorable venue for our beloved badged heroes.

“This event is in collaboration with BadgeWives and The Hub [a consortium of local businesses]. The event location is secret in order to protect the safety of our law enforcement officers.” Indeed, a sign of the times necessitating a clandestine operation for the good of, well…the good guys.

Relatedly, the venue also has public safety attributes and open arms. You see, through The Hub, Station House BBQ stepped up, rolled out red carpet (metaphor; you’ll see in a moment), and offered their digs as a site to house/feed the event attendees. And they did so at zero expense to anyone attending.

(Photo courtesy of BadgeWives.)

As the name implies, Station House BBQ is owned/operated by firefighters. Whether working the city streets or privately rubbing elbows with like-minded public safety pros, cops and firefighters often go side by side in serving others…and this was an exceptional example. (Since firefighters spend 24-hour shifts at the station house, cooking for themselves, I follow my nose wherever it goes and often wound up taking my duty breaks at one of our city firehouses. So, this all makes sense as to how holsters and hoses came together, as usual.)

From what I understand, not only did Station House BBQ offer their digs, they opened on a regularly closed day and had their staff come in on their day off…all in honor of our heroes donning LEO stars and shields.

How’s that for altruism and unfailing law enforcement support?

This whole idea is especially enriching during a time when our society is subjected to hearing the sour notes of arrogant crooners screeching anti-police messaging. We’ve seen myriad Back the Blue events across the nation, many of which were invaded by anti-cop sorts parading through and barking like wolverines at a duly heralded demographic deserving the accolades in peaceful settings.

Back the Blue sentiments and supports is definitely the antidote to malcontents who are self-blinded to bravery, courage, and selflessness passionately portrayed by LEOs; Deputy Magli is one of the latest to exemplify such phenomenal character traits and oath fulfillment.

In that context, BadgeWives and area merchant members of The Hub sought to aggregate donations expressly destined for the Magli family: “There [were] raffles from local businesses, and food [was] provided as well. We [collected] voluntary donations for fallen Pinellas County Deputy Michael Magli’s family; however, this was not required. All funds will go to the fund set up by PCSO for [Deputy Magli’s] wife and [two very young] children.”

The National Police Association had the privilege to interview BadgeWives secretary Amanda Lynn Holton whose pride, exuberance, and efforts were robust…and rightly so.

(Photo courtesy of BadgeWives.)

Ms. Holton (pictured above, grey shirt) walked us from conception through fruition: “This all started with Sean (a photographer) pitching an idea in The Hub after Deputy Magli was killed in the line of duty last week. His thought process was this: Almost every LODD [Line Of Duty Death], you hardly ever see family pictures. You may see department photos, selfies taken with family/friends, but rarely [professional] family photos you’d hang on the mantle. Is this because they don’t have the time, money, what have you?

“While we want to help families in need after LODDs, why are we waiting until then, why not donate to the families still intact because, God forbid something tragic happened, those family pictures will be priceless compared to any monetary donation. So, we wanted to give back to the family while at the same time donating time/talent to the local LEO families.”

Sudden lump in throat? Ditto. Sean sounds like the kind of guy who has the right idea for the right reasons and conjoined the right people to see it through on behalf of the right folks battling on the frontlines. Sean and a slew of other volunteer photographers, BadgeWives, and the proprietors at Station House BBQ mortared a plan and made it materialize so cops and loved ones are heralded.

Holton explained how such a sown seed sprouted: “We’ve had local businesses reach out and donate items and services to raffle off to the families that attended.

“BadgeWives put together goodie bags with Junior Deputy Badges, pens, notepads, Chapstick, small things Deputies could find useful. Local businesses also provided local made treats, coupons and free service cards to place in the bags to send home with families as well.”

As the spouse of a law enforcement officer, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s “Back the Blue” campaign bolsters the field work performed by cops and the spouses/significant others who support them throughout an undeniably harrowing profession.

With a self-explanatory name, BadgeWives exercises all muscles and moving parts to congeal components in order to deliver utmost honor, respect and love for a law enforcement family whose public safety professional exemplified the ultimate sacrifice so that others can survive. One can easily imagine that the Magli family can breathe somewhat easier knowing they have a legion of supporters behind them.

Among the many dividends from the pilot of Portraits on Patrol, Holton said, “We ended up raising $3,140 for the Magli Family.”

It is most gratifying to see how communities across the nation endeavor to pushback against the anti-police harangue and lovingly trumpet good thoughts and marvelous things for our law enforcement heroes. As Holton told me, “The community has really stepped up to assist, and it’s so awesome to see us all come together and do what we can with what we have!”

Although serving as the conduit, BadgeWives gave a bulk of the credit to the catalysts: “The people who truly made this happen are the photographers who of course never have pictures of themselves!” So, hats off to the shutterbugs (respectfully) who offered their talents and trained their lenses on LEOS for an unforgettable event by memorializing a fallen cop and his cohorts who forge forward with the public safety mission.

LEOs do not look for such things, but boy oh boy is it delightful when recognition is rolled out and  a hearty communal embrace stands as a solid pillar for police families, especially those with broken hearts and shattered pieces stemming from a line-of-duty death.

Me thinks there’s no finer glue than Back the Blue… How about you?

(Image derived from BadgeWives page.)

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