I was still a probationary police officer and working in the 18th District, the old Chicago Ave. building. That’s a large district that encompassed everything from the ‘Magnificent Mile’ to the Cabrini Green Housing Projects. I had just finished working with a Field Training Officer and was to be randomly assigned to various other officers.
It was made evident every day that women were not accepted or liked in the Chicago Police Department: at least not as regular patrol officers. In the 18th District here were a fairly large number of officers at every roll call and while there were very few women it wasn’t unusual for few people to pay attention to the voice they heard when a certain car number or name was called out. I believe the men knew that women had suddenly become police officers but they really didn’t believe that they would really have to work with one!
I arrived at the squad car, put my brief case in the back seat and sat in the passenger seat waiting for my partner. I already knew that no man would allow a woman to actually drive a squad car. My ‘partner’ put his briefcase into the back seat and got into the squad car and looked at me. That’s when it dawned on him that not all police officers were, er, built the same.
“Oh shit, you’re a woman!” were his first words.
“Yes I am and my husband is grateful for that.”
“No! No! I mean,” As he leaned out the open window, “It’s a Saturday night; a full moon in the middle of summer! Nope! I ain’t gonna work with no dumb broad!
The officer jumped out of the car, grabbed his briefcase and literally ran back into the police station.
Less than five minutes later I was assigned to a different squad car with an officer whose first words were, “I don’t do nothin’ and don’t write tickets ‘cause I hate to go to Court. I intend to find my usual sleeping hole and stay there all night.”
That was my introduction to the world of the Chicago Police Department as a woman simply trying to work at a job that paid a decent salary. It took the CPD another 7 years before an order came down from the Superintendent that no officer could refuse
to work with their assigned partner simply because of the partner’s gender.
Filed under: Tales from the Trenches