Irene and Brian are police partners. Just like Starsky and Hutch, Crockett and Tubs, Tango and Cash. They have worked together for 12 years, arresting suspected drug dealers and responding to robbery calls in one of San Francisco's toughest neighborhoods: the Tenderloin.
But there is one big difference: Starsky and Hutch were not married. Irene and Brian Michaud are.
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"You've got to communicate and talk and trust each other," said Brian. "A lot of time people at work joke your partner at work is your second wife. I don't know what I would be without her."
They first met at the police academy.
"She didn't even remember that meeting until I told her," Brian said.
Irene quickly countered, "No, I remember that meeting. I just didn't remember your first name."
"I left a lasting impression on you," Brian joked.
Their police work went better. The first time they worked together, they made a big bust.
"We seized about 70 pounds of fireworks from the back of the car," recalled Brian. "When we brought it back to the station it was, 'Wow, pretty good.'"
Cuffed Together, for Life
At first sparks did not fly between the two of them. Although Brian liked Irene right away, Irene was not so sure.
"For the longest time she said no. 'No, we're partners. We're partners.' I said, 'Fine, let's get new partners,' and she said 'No, or I'll get mad.'"
She finally relented.
"He's funny. He makes me laugh. He cares about people," said Irene. "It got to a point where I thought, Maybe I can make this work and we'll see what happens. Take a chance."
At first they tried to keep their relationship quiet, but people around them saw the signs.
Officer Tim Kiely, their colleague, said he saw their relationship change. "We kinda all figured it out."
"Next thing I know, they were handing out the wedding invitations," said Captain Gary Jimenez, head of the Tenderloin station.
They married in 1999. And yes, the ceremony did have a police twist.
"When we were at the alter saying our vows and when he pronounced us man and wife … they pulled out handcuffs and cuffed us together," Irene said.
'You're Always Thinking What Could Happen'
They've been bound ever since. Brian and Irene have used their relationship in the past to their professional advantage.
"If we're working plainclothes, we'll be walking down the streets and we'll hold hands, so we would kind of blend in looking like a couple," Irene said.
On the streets they have a somewhat uncreative nickname.
"A lot of the regulars call us 'Husband and Wife,'" Brian said. "So if I'm working overtime, they'll say, 'Hey, Husband, where is Wife?'"
The Michauds insist that when they are on the clock, it is all business.
"There is no hanky-panky at work. You can't," Irene said.
"No, you can't," Brian agreed. "That's just asking for trouble."
Although there are several couples in the San Francisco police department, hardly any choose to partner.
"You really don't want your family exposed to this," said Kiely. "I don't even want my wife to come to the station to see me because there is a lot of not nice people that we deal with."
Their jobs require them to approach dangerous situations and people. One day Brian and Irene found a drug addict searching for crack in an alley.
"The whole time walking down the alley there, I could see his right hand, but I couldn't see his left hand," Brian said. "So I'm thinking if he has got a gun. I'm going to do this. You're always thinking what could happen … if something was going on, a shooting or something, and we weren't together to hear it on the radio, it would be worse, I think."
'I Wouldn't Want to Be Anywhere Else'
Brian and Irene clock off at 4 p.m. and leave together to go pick up their three children, Khalil, 14, Kaitlin, 6, and Emily, 3.
In a world where most couples say they don't spend enough time together, the Michauds' working arrangement has some distinct advantages. Looking ahead, Irene and Brian want a lifetime of togetherness. They're hoping to retire at the same time. And at the end of each work day, they both work together to tackle home chores.
"We're there for each other the whole time we come home," Brian said. "I'll do the showers [for the kids] and she'll cook, or she'll do the showers and I'll cook."
"This works for us because we can communicate with each other," Irene explained. "We understand each other, and we know that we're not perfect. He and I have our flaws, but we make it work."
Later, while sitting on the couch in front of the TV, Irene commented that their schedule "doesn't seem like too much together time."
"No, not at all," Brian said. "I wouldn't want to be anywhere else."