This new profession for women is without doubt only a part of a great movement which has awakened womankind to a fuller realization of their responsibility towards society and the need of their taking an active part in the affairs of the community. In assuming these larger interests, women have not forsaken the home ideals, but invariably work out their programs and develop their activities in accordance with the traditions of the home, and to this may be attributed much of the success of women in their work today.
In many ways the position of a woman in a police department is not unlike that of a mother in a home. Just as a mother smoothes out the rough places, looks after the children and gives a timely word or warning, advice or encouragement, so the policewoman fulfills her duty.
Police officers are largely concerned with law enforcement, preservation of the public peace and the protection of life and property. For a long time policemen have performed these duties nobly, and even today without the faithful surveillance of our brave bluecoats, civilization might be in a turmoil. Why, then, are policewomen necessary? The best answer to this question is Progress.
When public-spirited groups and individuals began to realize that the best way to solve some of the most difficult police problems was preventing crime and that such prevention logically started with children, a big advance in police work was made. It was then that the need for policewomen arose. With Prevention and Protection as a slogan and the welfare of children, girls and women for their field service, policewomen have been given a task to perform quite different from that of their fellow policemen. Raymond Fosdick once said that when policewomen put on uniforms and carried guns and clubs, they became little men, but when they did their work as women, they rendered a great service. And it is certainly a fact that no woman can really be a good policewoman unless she works as a woman and carries with her into a police department a woman's ideals.
A woman's way of dealing with a problem is oftentimes wholly unlike a man's method of working out the same thing. Both may be good, but there are without doubt some police problems, particularly those in which the affairs of children, girls and women are involved, that can best be handled by a policewoman merely because of the fact that she is a woman. For instance, in the cases of women and girls all interviews relating to sex are matters demanding the attention of policewomen. Just as a mother discusses these things with her daughter instead of delegating the duty to the father, so a policewoman, when it is necessary to do so, should discuss such topics rather than the policeman.
The rules and regulations, customs and traditions of police departments, having developed completely under the regime of men, do not always function according to a woman's way of doing things. To attempt to accomplish everything one would like to do by disregarding the system in operation, would be a very unwise policy for policewomen to adopt. Effective service depends largely upon the extent to which the women cooperate with the men, for after all, policewomen have taken up policewomanship, not with the idea of replacing men in this work, but for the purpose of aiding and assisting them by seeking in a quiet, unassuming way to prevent crime. As soon as a policewoman proves by her good works, that she is sincere, honest and earnest, any antagonism that the men may be inclined to display as first quickly vanishes.
Within recent years New York and another large eastern city have employed policewomen for the first time. The policy of New York illustrates the right way of using the service of women in police work; that of the other city as the papers reported it, shows the wrong way.
In New York City, the first policewoman was a volunteer worker who had been trained at a school of social science. The services of an officially appointed woman had been requested by various organizations on the grounds that a woman protective officer could best look after the welfare of the girls of the city. It was then that the famous Bureau of Missing Persons was in an embryo stage, and in developing this work it was essential that a woman be assigned to many of the missing girls cases. Generally the men in the service did not favor the idea of women entering the field. Not until some difficult cases had been closed satisfactorily by the new appointee did they change their opinion and accept the woman as a regular full-fledged policewoman.
When the first policewoman was appointed in the New York Police Department the fact was not concealed. The men knew who she was, understood why she was there and looked upon her as a fellow worker who was simply tackling the problem from a different angle. The result has been that policewomen in New York have been a success and have proved a help to the Department in every way. New York will always have policewomen.
A short tiime ago a policewoman in the other city resigned her position because she objected to the duties that had been assigned her, which were in the nature of gathering evidence. "I had joined the force," she said, "to help fallen women and wayward children. Instead I was forced to accompany men of the lowest type, professional stool pigeons, around town, to enter dives of the worst type and do work which could be done much better by men."
The idea of this city was to make of their women, not protective officers, but detectives. When the women were first appointed, they patrolled the various posts of the patrtolmen unbeknown to these officers. Such a procedure in itself was sufficient to arouse the suspicions of the men and prejudice them against the women for all time. One newspaper reporter tersely analyzed the situation as follows: "The work of the new policewoman so far appears to be of a watchful waiting order with considerable difficulty in killing time. It looks as though waiting for some one to be bad was going to be a deadly monotonous job for our women's police force." With such a beginning it is not surprising that the outcome of the experiment should register such complete failure as was indicated by the resignation of a women who had the right ideas about the kind of police work a woman should do, but was given no opportunity to develop her good ideas.
Besides the successes and failures, we have the cities who see the light and want policewomen and those who are still in darkness and refuse to appoint women as police officers. Paterson, New Jersey, for instance, endorsed the policewoman movement heartily because the people there realized that only the appointment of policewomen could the problems presented by the large numbers of girl operatives in the Paterson silk mills and the children of foreign families be handled properly. A women's league of a large Connecticut city, on the other hand, by resolutions violently denounced the attempts that were being made to appoint policewomen in that city, because they did not believe a woman could do police duty "with the ability, efficiency and promptness of a man." It would be interesting to compare conditions in Paterson with those of this city without policewomen or perhaps to enlighten the ladies who oppose the measure by statistics showing the number of wayward or runaway girls from the city, who are ably, efficiently and promptly handled by policewomen when they leave home and come to New York for a little jaunt.
If the value of policewomen is to be measured in dollars and cents, there may be cities that will follow London's blind lead and declare that women police are too costly to maintain. But then the work of policewomen is appraised in terms of lives -- the lives of children, young girls and women -- more and more cities and towns will want policewomen at any cost.