Let us understand from the onset the meaning of the word policewoman. It is a distinct, definite term, just as the term policeman is a definitely understood term; both are municipal police officers. Night watchmen and private guards may be called special officers, but they are not called policemen. Neither should every woman who happens to be given police power for any reason whatever be called a policewoman. Yet, because the idea still has active news value, that is what occurs. Quite a proportion of the time which I devote to the general work is spent in investigating and verifying, if possible, the reports of women appointed. Often these erroneous reports are accompanied by interesting amplifications which sound plausible. For instance: about three years ago there appeared a detailed statenient regarding the appointment of thirty policewomen in Berlin, Germany, which went on to tell, with gentle humor, how secure the men felt, irrespective of their presence, because all the men had to do was to keep in front of the women instead of behind them in case the women attempted to shoot. But a letter from the head of the Royal Prussian Police System, Division 4, assures me that Berlin has no policewomen, and goes into details as to the work of the two women social workers upon whom the Berlin police department depend for assistance.
Any survey of policewomen given by me either here or else- where refers, unless otherwise designated, to regular policewomen who are in the pay of the police department and give all their time to it
During the now nearly six years since Los Angeles appointed the first regular policewoman, twenty states have come into line. As this is a total unexpected by many people, I will call the list of states rather than cities, as heretofore: Maryland, California, Colorado, Texas, Pennsylvania, Washington, New York, Arizona, Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, Alabama, Indiana, North Dakota, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Louisiana, New Jersey, Missouri, Minnesota, Montana.
Several states which would be in this column if hard work could have accomplished it, were ruled out because the lack of suffrage for women was construed as prohibiting the giving of police power to women. But the lack of the vote or other probibitive clauses did not deter in all states, for during these years seven states have passed special legislation to make possible the appointment of policewomen.
This ought to convince the most skeptical that policewomen have come and have come to stay. The exact scope and nature of their work is yet to be fully determined, partly because in any line of work the possibilities and limitations can only be arrived at through a long process of experience over wide and varied fields; and because police work itself is facing a throughgoing change in its spirit and application, and the work of women in the department is most closely related to the preventive side of police work, where the greatest development will take place.
The work of policewomen began conservatively. It began with woman’s desire to care for the children and the young people amid modern conditions, just as she has always done for them since the world began. Thus policewomen began by concerning themselves with the places of amusements where the young gather -- the dance halls, the skating rinks, the picture shows, the parks and the streets -- through the curfew and other minor laws, and will continue to do so. Also from the beginning women have come to them for help. The power of the policewomen to counsel and protect fills a real need in the lives of many troubled women.
As appreciation for the work grows, so that the number of women in each city is increased, it will be found that women can be used helpfully in many additional ways. I will not attempt to enumerate these, but will give one striking instance among the many which will illustrate an intolerable condition, yet one unthought of by the public, and to be remedied only by the use of policewomen.
I refer to the occasions when men officers, especially detectives and plain clothes men, must, in their round of duty, go to the homes of women and compel them to accompany them at once to the station. Sometimes this may be proper; but often it may occur at any hour of the day or night, when they would fInd women totally unprepared for men visitors. Yet the officers’ duty is such that no matter what state of dress or undress the woman may be in, they must keep her under personal observation. If they trusted her to prepare for the street she might succeed in making her escape; she might attempt self-destruction; she might destroy evidence; she might signal confederates, or do any one of a dozen things to defeat the law. The women have sometimes escaped when officers have been considerate enough to withdraw. The loss of a prisoner means a serious neglect of duty and the officer cannot take the chance.
To be sure, many women who have committed minor offenses through unfortunate association and have come under the ban, would not resort to desperate means. But the officer cannot safely discriminate, and in modern life such experience might come to almost any one.
This experience is unjust and unnecessary humiliation for both the officers and the women. It is a demoralizing custom, shocking to those who are modest and self-respecting, and one which pushes still lower those who are inclined that way. It shows at a glance the unreasonable position in which the officers are placed. This is a net loss to society which can be remedied only by supplying enough women police in every department to help to deal with all situations, and by having it just as clearly understood, as it now is, that men shall not search women’s apartments alone or question young girls about moral indiscretions.
To summarize, police work will be viewed from many new angles when men and women together work out ways through which the police department will take in the community its rightful place.
As to the second half of my subject, "Its Future Needs," I can express the greatest of these in four words: women trained for work. The time has passed in which any large and important work can be carried on satisfactorily unless a large proportion of those upon whom it must depend have been especially selected and fitted for the work.
When we realize that police work is unlike other work previously done by women, we at once realize that there is no ready-made body from which to draw. When we see that every city and town in the world large enough to have an organized police department should include women, even the blind can see how enormous is the task of finding and equipping women to fill the rapidly growing demand, if the work is to be done upon a high plane of sympathy and of constructive service.
Any system of training schools built up to equip women for police work must be extremely practical, especially in the initial stage. I want to emphasize this because it is a factor not realized by the laity, that there is no set of workers in any important branch of public or private service which esteems book learning so little as a preparation for its work as do police officers. You can understand somewhat their point of view when you remem- ber that through all the long past they have had no other way to learn except by the slow process of contact, by practical experience every step of the way from the first day on the beat to the highest position of trust within the department.
Any policewoman who makes good must have the confidence and co-operation of the men in the department. Without this her work would be superficial and hampered. Therefore, from this standpoint as well as from every other, she should be able to get with her scholarship practical experience. This is true especially if she is to apply for work outside her own city.
Municipalities at present adjust themselves to the lack of training by placing women in the department under civil service, to learn their work after appointment, just as men have always done. Small cities have not even this advantage, as they have neither a wide range of field work, nor always suitable women as candidates. But at its best this method is archaic. Police work is quite as honorable inherently as is law or medicine. But it stands today, in point of training facilities, where they stood a century ago. Until very recently our universities and other educational institutions were strangely oblivious to the fact that they could serve the public interests by helping train policemen, just as they are equipping doctors, lawyers, ministers and civil engineers. The next twenty-five years will see as great a change in police work as the past century has brought to the professions named.
The beginning is evident in the very excellent New York and Chicago police schools; the growing desire of universities to meet this need, as evidenced in the offers of Northwestern University and of Minnesota State University, and the classes already carried on by the University of California, and also the interest of the schools of civics and philanthropy, whose purpose it is to better equip all civic and social workers. But the policewomen represent an acute and imperative need. The call for their service is widespread and they are not hampered by inertia and the tradition which impedes men’s advancement. Beginning later in police history, women start at an advantage.
I have calls from small cities saying, "If we can get the appropriation for policewomen, can you find us a trained woman for the place?" I have letters from young women asking for places, but I cannot recommend one, except in rare occasions when an experienced policewoman, for any reason, wishes to make a change. No matter how well fitted temperamentally or in general experience an applicant may be, cities do not wish to hire her, knowing she must acquire all her training at their expense after arrival.
The larger centers, such as Los Angeles, Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago, Baltimore and other cities which now have well established departments of policewomen, must be willing to act as training centers for those both within and without the city who wish to fit themselves for this work. Provision should also be made in such training courses for sociological students, volunteer workers and others who wish to seriously study crime problems. Women who complete the course will constitute an eligible list for the city or for other municipalities.
The schools of civics and philanthropy have a work to do here as elsewhere. There is a place for those, whether men or women, who will study police work in all its social relations. They are needed in the constructive task of readjusting police work to the changing order. But comparatively few can take complete courses in schools of civics and philanthropy, and not all who would make excellent police officers could meet the advanced educational requirements for entrance as regular students. Under the present circumstances it is as impracticable to look to graduates from schools of civics and other training courses to supply the need for policewomen, as it would be for the public school system to try to recruit its entire teaching force from post-graduates of colleges and universities.
Let me repeat that the main dependence must be placed upon the practical training which can be given in the departments of policeWomen now existing in numerous cities. Every well-trained policewoman should have some studies in sociology as part of her training. Fortunately every city progressive enough to have policewomen and to train them has also some educational institution which can or will direct their studies.
One final suggestion which I feel to be very pertinent to a plan for training is that of correspondent courses. Police work is as nearly reducible to an exact science as are a dozen other kinds of important work, including the professions earlier named. Many worth-while people would undertake the work if they could continue their regular occupations while acquiring all but the actual field service. Women already started who are trying to work out their problems alone in isolated fields need help. I know such a correspondence course would be in demand, for I already have requests for help of that kind.
The important question remaining is, through what medium can this work of correlation be accomplished? Various agencies will contribute to it. The International Association of Policewomen came into existence for the exact purpose of helping to establish and maintain a high standard both of work and of work- ers, and to advance as members of the police department its general service to the community. It was organized at a conference of policewomen, held one year ago, during the Baltimore session of the National Conference of Charities and Correction and has made a commendable growth during the year, despite the very wide area over which policewomen are scattered. In connection with this present session of the National Conference our International Association of Policewomen had just concluded its second annual conference, which was a marked success. Policewomen from 14 states assembled -- 9 of them from cities which thought the conference important enough to send them as delegates representing the city, all expenses paid. Our total membership represents 22 states and Canada. For an organization a few days less than one year old we feel it to be a showing of which we may well be proud. During the coming year we will endeavor to develop training facilities, help find and place women, furnish acredited information, and in other ways help the work of policewomen achieve a worthy place among the many forces working for the common good.