Celebration of Women Police

women police 4I have been thinking about the positive influences women have brought to policing.

I have to admit I never thought women could work in uniform alongside men until I saw this when I studied police in Europe in the late 1960s. When I got to Madison, I had the opportunity to lead this important change and, yes, I became a feminist!

Another thought: why aren’t women police seen more as shooters? After all, they generally are smaller and not as strong as males. Do they know something men don’t? And how may that wisdom help police emerge from their present crisis?

The following is a talk I gave in 1999 which noted was the 25th year that women police began uniformed patrol in Madison, Wisc. one of the first cities to do so.

I was the chief during those challenging and exciting years.

mpd emblem“I can’t tell you how much this means to me to be here today. I am delighted to be part of this wonderful and historic celebration. I want to take this opportunity today to tell you how proud I am of you! How much I respect you and the work you do. Your years of service to Madison are an immeasurable contribution to the quality of life in this fine city.

“Some of us took a calculated chance 25 years ago. We wanted to ‘do the right thing.’ We wanted to integrate this police department for two reasons:

  • Improve the quality of police service and
  • Reflect the composition of the community in the ranks of the police department.

“I’m sure most people in the city have forgotten that before 1974, women served a limited function on the Madison Police Department — that of juvenile officer (we called them “Policewomen”) — They were carry-overs from the “police matron” days.

“But the women had to be better educated than the men. They were even more courageous — they didn’t carry firearms and had to have a four-year college degree. They couldn’t work other jobs in the department. And they couldn’t compete for a higher rank. It’s hard to believe that was only 25 years ago!…

“The idea in the early days was that the police department had to have women to handle female prisoners and children. Rather like in the South when police departments first hired blacks. They were to be police officers in a limited capacity — to arrest blacks, not whites. They were okay as long as they stayed in in their place. I think the same applied to women. They were okay as long as they were just handling other women and children — in their place.

“But we decided the world was changing and we were going to change with it — we were going to be a part OF it, not against it… it was simply a better way to run a police department…

“I know it was not without hardship and suffering on your part. Yet you hung in there, you fought the good fight. You fought it for your grandmothers. You fought it for your mothers. You fought it for your sisters. You fought it for your daughters and your granddaughters — and most of all you fought it for your selves…

“I am sure there is still work that needs to be done to make the Madison Police Department an ever-greater and more excellent police department. This is not the time to settle back and relax. Wasn’t that what we were all about — striving for greatness and excellence?…

“The department continues its pursuit of greatness and excellence when its men and women consider their role as police officers as being the primary defender of this nation’s freedom — defenders of the Bill of Rights.

“The department continues its pursuit of greatness and excellence when its men and women always remember that integrity once lost is not easily regained.

“The department continues its pursuit of greatness and excellence when its men and women understand that the authority to use force is a sacred trust given them by their community.

“The department continues its pursuit of greatness and excellence when the police department is 1/2 male, 1/2 female, when the police department reflects the colors of the human rainbow, and does it without differentiation as to a person’s sexual preference…

“My vision has always been to have this police department be always on the cutting edge of the police service — for this police department to be undeniably not just the best police department in Wisconsin, not just the best police department in America, but the best police department in the world.

“I hope it is your vision, too…

“Thank you for blessing me with your presence here today; for working with me as your colleague… And for often considering me your brother.”

[Note: Last week the highest ranked womean in Madison police history died. Morlynn Frankey was one of my earliest supporters and led the fight to bring women into policing. She served as my adminstrative lieutenant, then captain of patrol, and finally assistant chief shortly before her retirement. Read more HERE,