By Hal Collier
The following stories are true and again are only my opinions. I’m sure that other officers of both sexes have different views of female officers in the LAPD. I welcome hearing from anyone.
In the early 70’s, most people didn’t think women should or could be police officers. Even Chief of Police Edward M. Davis was against women working patrol. I worked with a lot of females throughout my career and they had a lot of different reasons for joining and diverse backgrounds.
Here are a few.
One female officer said she was looking for a husband, cops have a good steady job, they’re clean, (disease free) and they’re in good shape. Another said she was an interior decorator in Texas and came to California for work. She found out that everyone in California was an interior decorator, so she applied to be a cop. She was the one who thought we carried dynamite (road flares) in the trunks of our police cars.
I worked with one female who drove an expensive BMW and had expensive clothes. In her previous job, she made double my salary, so I asked her why work for LAPD? She said the money was nice but her job was boring. She was looking for some excitement. She found it on the LAPD. Quite a few said it was the only job they could find with benefits. We had one female probationer who arrived at work each morning, dressed like she just slid off the pole at a strip club. She was not retained when it was discovered she was dating both her male training officers at the same time. A few slept their way through probation and promotions.
I was a training officer for over twenty-one years and worked with a lot of probationers or “rookies,” as some called them. As I stated in my first Ramblings, I worked morning watch with one of the first female police officers. My wife didn’t like that I was working with a female, alone all night. I discovered that my wife was not the Watch Commander at work, only at home.
The first thing I noticed was that on almost every call you had a back-up unit. As I stated, we were a good old boys club and most men didn’t think females could do the job. Some of the officers were there to save my butt, if need be, and others were there hoping the female would fail.
I’ll never forget my first fight with a female partner. It’s Christmas Eve and we get a domestic dispute radio call. Two brothers, drunk, get into an argument and one punches the other in the nose, breaking it. The brother with the broken nose wants his brother arrested for battery. No problem, right? A simple citizen arrest and report. We might even get off on time.
We handcuff the brother and put him in our police car. I’m driving, of course, and sitting in the police car. My female partner is in the back seat with the drunk brother. Just as I’m about to drive away the brothers’ mother comes running out and says, “You’re not arresting my son on Christmas Eve.” She reaches in the driver’s window and grabs me by the neck. I open the car door and knock the mother to the ground. She’s about 110 pounds and I later learn, a 60 year old grammar school teacher. I step out and she jumps up and attacks me. I grab her arm and spin her around in a rear wrist lock. I hear a familiar snap. Oh shit, I just broke her arm.
This can’t get any worse right, wrong. The son, handcuffed in the back seat screams, “What are you doing to my mother?” My partner comes to assist me in handcuffing the now one armed school teacher. The son begins kicking the door window of our police car. My partner subdues him with a few punches to the ribs. Everyone goes to jail for Christmas except the son with the broken nose.
There were changes to be made and it wasn’t going to be the women who changed. Think of it as a marriage, who changes? First, the men had to stop swearing in roll call, although some of the females swore like a sailor. Next, no more blond jokes or for that matter all female gender jokes were banned. No more jokes on how many female officers does it take to screw up a crime scene.
Women as a rule were of smaller stature, which presented a whole new set of issues. Some of the shorter women couldn’t close the police car trunk from the back bumper. They had to step to the side fender where they could reach the trunk lid. In the 70’s, all the police cars had bench seats. Go ahead—let your 5 foot 3 inch partner drive and spend the night with your knees in the dash for eight hours.
I’m going to leave you with one more female cop story. I’m not working with a female this night and a “robbery just occurred” call comes out. A female officer arrives and puts out a crime broadcast. She describes the suspect, male white, 6-0, 180 pounds last seen westbound Sunset in a fuchsia colored Ford. It might have been the interior decorator. I look at my male partner and ask what the hell color is fuchsia. Most of us good old boys never graduated past the primary colors, you know the ones that make up a rainbow. After 35 years as a big city cop, I still don’t know what color fuchsia is.
Next Ramblings, why I liked working with female partners. Hal