In asking the city officials of Los Angeles to create the position for me as a regular police officer, an integral and permanent part of the department -- that the protective and preventive side for women and children might be developed within the department, I based the petition upon the plea that dance halls, skating rinks, picture shows, and the street, including the curfew law, could not properly be cared for by men officers.
For one year, before other policewomen were appointed here or elsewhere and the work broadened, I had charge of this kind of work. From it I learned two things -- i. e., that girls and women in trouble have a right to the sympathy and help of women officers; and that men officers have a right to exemption from what may be a constant temptation to the weak and from a forced and unnecessary association with those who, if resentful, may cast a cloud upon the reputation of the most exemplary. The best officers are the most reluctant to undertake alone the handling of girls, and will resign in preference. The result is that the incipient work, where hope for redemption lies, is left un(lone by a police department without women, and only flagrant cases, or those definitely reported, are undertaken.
Sometimes the work takes us into the home to talk to mother and daughter as no man could hope to do. I recall one instance reported, of a young girl who was a menace to both girls an(l boys throughout her neighborhood. Two of us went and talked to her and her mother about the career upon which she had entered; told her to get a pattern, learn to make her own dresses, which, simple and scanty as they were, her hard-worked father was hiring made for her while she ran the streets day and night. We further instructed her not to go out on the street at night except with her father or mother, -- an injunction which the officer on the beat later assured me was being obeyed. But I fear we had found her a little too late for very hopeful result.
In another case, a father reported that his daughter had threatened to leave home and he wished us to prevent it. One of our policewomen assigned to the case found that the father, with the narrow vision of many foreign-born, was expecting this young, motherless daughter to do all of the hard work of caring for the family, including the washing. Her young sweetheart, honorable and considerate, saw the drain upon the girl’s strength which her father did not, and was paying her 75 cents a week to hire the washing done, unknown to tier father. Though he had good earning capacity, our policewoman labored with him for days before he consented even to buy a neat pair of shoes and a simple dress, that the girl might go on Easter Sunday to Sunday school, unashamed. He finally sent for a woman relative to come as housekeeper.
Eventually the organization of our police Juvenile Bureau, to which both men and women are assigned, took over the handling of all children and youths who come into the hands of the department, and such women as need special care. For one year also I had charge of the Bureau of Lost People, meaning especially the letters which come to us, as to the police departments of all large cities, seeking deserting husbands, wandering sons and daughters, or expressing the haunting fear of sickness or death because the accustomed letters do not come. In its tendency to keep the home ties strong, its appeal to sympathy and patient following of detail, this is a woman’s work; but it means a sacrifice of more vital preventive work, until the number of women is increased to a proportion beyond that now existing in any city.
Provided there is no adult probation oflicer to do it policewomen act as baliffs in police courts where special effort is made to help women already arrested and find work for them that such may not go out only to fall again. They answer suspicious advertisements, help secure evidence against illegal fortune-telling or people who otherwise are preying upon a credulous public; and in many other ways they increase the etliciency of the department in its effort to preserve the peace anit safety of the community. The work differs considerably with the size of cities. In large cities there are many workers, each with a carefully defined field of service. In small cities there are fewer workers and boundary lines are vague. There are policewomen at this conference who in their round of duty have done almost every form of social service acceptably.
I would not give the impression that the policewoman’s work is a silver lining or an ornamental fringe to the very dark cloud of law enforcement for which a policeman stands in the average mind. She is an integral part of the department and stands for law enforcement; but her largest and best work is to prevent, for the securing of obedience to law is the very best form of law enforcement.
Does the policewoman make arrests? is a question asked. Indeed she does -- but as few as possible, and those in keeping with the spirit of the work. She does not try to do the traditional work of the policeman on the street; but when a girl is to be brought in and held for any reason it is right for the policewoman to go and bring her in. If she has to summon to court the proprietor of a place of amusement, she does so. These constitute arrests, yet are no more spectacular or unwomanly than the work daily performed by other business and professional women.
For decades past the "woman policeman" has been a figment of the imagination, has been held up to ridicule as the acme of the absurd and impossible; but, though the last echo of derision still reverberates, there has grown a policewoman movement as great in strength and size as any humanitarian movement has attained in equal time. In giving the present status of this movement, the list of policewomen presented is intended to include regular policewomen -- those who are a regular part of the police department, appointed as men are for outside work; and names are given approximately in the order of establishment. Others wil be mentioned under their own respective headings. Los Angeles, 5; Baltimore, 5; Seattle, 5; Vancouver, B. C., 1; Fargo, N. D., 1; Topeka, Kan., 2; Toronto, Ont., 2; Grand Forks, N. D., I; San Francisco, 3; Rochester, 1; Chicago, 36; Ottawa, Quebec, 1; Aurora, Ill., 1; San Antonio, 2; Syracuse, 1; Pitts- burgh, 4; St. Paul, 3; Minneapolis, 2; Denver, 1; Muncie, md., 1; Colorado Springs, 1; Superior, Wis,, 1; Dayton, 0., 2; James- town, N. Y., 1; Bacine, Wis., 1; South Bend, 1; Phoenix, Ariz., 1; Victoria, B. C., I; Ithaca, N. Y., 1. Also I believe Sioux City, Ia., Beatrice and Omaha, Nebraska, have 1 each. Poughkeepsie, N. Y., and Des Moines, Ia., have one each, paid from private funds, but with the approval of the chief of police. There are in small cities so-called police matrons who are really policewomen. They do the regular, all-around protective work of a policewoman, taking care, in addition, of the occasional woman prisoner which a small town has. I have included them in the regular list, for such they are and should be called.
There are regular police matrons who, in addition to their own arduous duty of taking full care daily of woman prisoners, receive other requests because there are no policewomen to call on. Such an one is Mrs. J. J. Farley, of Dallas, Texas. The city has paid tribute to her long and capable service by giving her the title and salary of captain, xvith a handsome gold badge to prove it. There are two New York matrons assigned to the detective bureau. One, at least, Mrs. Goodwin, draws a first-grade lieutenant’s pay. A third is detailed to the Lost Bureau. There are a variety of special police officers: one in Gary, Indiana, who is also a State Humane Officer; one in Kingstown, New York, who is a member of the health commission and president of the city federation of woman’s clubs. There are playground workers; and in Walla Walla, Washington, the wife of the Salvation Army adjutant, who gives most effective help by safeguarding youth in her regular round of duties.
There are the departments of safety for women in the cities of the northwest, which, as in Portland and Tacoma, especially, antedate regular police officers and which have done valuable work. But they have felt it better to work under less forbidding names and not to ally themselves frankly as an integral part of the police department on an equal basis with men. Oakland has such a department, without police authority at all. Six states have passed special laws to make possible the appointing of policewomen, -- Maryland, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Missouri and New Hampshire, in the order named. Others tried without success.
With policewomen in the lime-light, it takes much work to sift the true from the erroneous reports, and especial effort is required to find the status of policewomen’s work abroad. Berlin was widely heralded about two years ago as having appointed 30 policewomen. In a letter from the highest police authority in Berlin I am assured that it has no policewomen. So far as I know, only Norway, Sweden and Denmark have policewomen. I extended to them an invitation to attend this conference and hoped to see the face of one of them here. The English women have organized Women Patrols -- a voluntary corps of policewomen, hoping that, by meritorious work during this time of national stress, they may so establish the value of the work that the government will not be willing to dispense with it later. The National Union of Women Workers of Great Britain and Ireland under which it was instituted have done such wonderful work in providing funds, gathering and training women, and the women themselves are filling a vital tragic need so well that its permanency can hardly be in doubt.
I have said nothing, thus far, about women in positions of authority. The movement, as it concerns regular policewomen, standing unequivocally as a recognized part of police work, to rise or fall with it, is not quite five years old. It will be five years next September since my own appointment -- the first of this kind -- and civil service rules in nearly all cities require five years’ service before any officer is eligible to take a sergeant’s examination. Thus, it is plain, there has been little chance for women to rise through the ranks to the position of sergeant, much less to that of lieutenant or captain. I wish here to sound note against undue haste, for in police work, as in all other broadly human issues, there should be no sex emphasis or undue advantage.
Police work, to take the place it should and will take in the broader social program, must have the best that both men and women can give it. It will not be enhanced by underestimating the long, patient, upward climb of men’s police work under exceedingly adverse circumstances. I feel that we should jealously guard against a superficial conception of this new and great profession for women. In whatever city there is a woman who has had sufficient police experience or work analagous to it to know well its problems and procedure, she may with benefit be placed over inexperienced women; but I cannot refrain from making the plea that women entering police work shall receive the best grounding possible from the one best fitted to give it, whoever that may be. Only thus, in my judgment, may women effectively add to mens’ highest achievement that constructive sympathy and moral enthusiasm which is their richest contribution.
The police power of the state government, though an established term, as at present interpreted is a narrow one, referring usually to enforcement of labor laws, handling of rioting areas, drug evasions, etc. It has only the most incidental and cooperative relation to local police departments. As citizens of local communities we also narrowly understand police work to mean the enforcement of local ordinances, the suppression of violence or disorder; whereas state laws are just as operative inside city limits as outside -- and is not every police officer sworn to en- force the laws governing his municipality? Early in my experience, before we had a woman deputy labor inspector, I carried on with the consumers’ league an inspection of all factories where women were employed. This was in answer to a complaint that conditions were not conducive to the comfort and moral welfare of the women employed. We also investigated the stores in regard to the practical results of the law providing seats for employees, as complaints had reached us, But the extension of special state machinery absorbed the work. This some time will become regular police work.
The demoralizing influence of the saloon and social evil, which until very recently dominated every city, large and small, tended to hold the work to a maximum of muscle, with indifference as to amount of brain and dearth of initiative or ethical quality. With the coming of nnational prohibition and the complete divorcement of the social evil from official connivance, I foresee the time when every police officer will have the larger, finer work of enforcing all those laws of the state which are intimately related to human conservation and protection.
Is not a state law just as operative within the boundary of a city as outside? Indeed, the bulk of its action lies there. And is not a police ollicer sworn to enforce the laws governing the municipality? Only through this wider interpretation can we call into it the best men and women, or call the best out of the men now in it.
A start has been made by a few slates which have organized state police departments -- Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Texas. Except in Massachusetts, no effort has been made to touch social legislation, and even then not in a way calculated to leaven the whole. As this is yet to be achieved, I can only suggest for today a practical point of departure in the interchange between cities.
One of the vital factors among the finer phases of crime prevention, is the need of fresh faces. Suspicious advertisements appear in our papers for girls to work. Questionable rooming-houses cleverly a void the more flagrant evidences of danger to young girls. Dance halls and other places of amusement put the best root forward when the local policewoman appears, -- for her face becomes known quickly. An arrangement, for instance, between Buffalo and Syracuse, Los Angeles and San Francisco, St. Louis and Kansas City, whereby one, or several, policewomen mutually exchanged arrange to drop in as any traveling women, without going near the station; sealed orders, received previously at her hotel, would enable her as on experienced worker to find out and get convictions in many baffling or unsuspected cases.
All this means that we must have many women and the best women obtainnable, and training for them. It means that our schools of civics and philanthropy, which are ready to do this must have the cooperation of the local police department in furnishing the chance for field work that other agencies have long afforded; and that other means of recruiting suitable women be devised, Los Angeles hopes in another year, to take care of the demand of the Southwest. I receive letters from small cities saying, "If we secure the appropriation, can you send us an experienced woman to fill the place?" And letters from Europe asking for help, with letters all the way between. The schools of civics and the college vocational bureau receive similar calls, but we have not the women. Much educational work has been done. I have spoken in over 100 cities in the United States and Canada, and also at national and international gatherings. Others have spoken, and the work now ahead of us is to provide a supply the rapidly increasing demand and to guide the work into channels of greatest usefulness.