Chicago, IL—In the very early 1970’s policewomen were encouraged to integrate with policemen on routine patrol. Before then they only wore adorable little uniforms like airline stewardesses of the day. Skirts, high heels and they kept their little guns in their uniform policewomen purses. They were viewed as eye candy.
Policewomen searched female prisoners, changed diapers of arrestee’s babies and were assigned to the juvenile division. Today there are very few policewomen anywhere. The unisex term of police officer has replaced any reference to gender.
For patrol they were put in what today is the unisex uniform. The women essentially changed into the policeman’s uniform. There were some minor compromises for the tailor to accommodate the differences in the policewomen’s bodies. Otherwise the uniform is identical.
In Chicago during this period there were 14,000 sworn officers and only about 90 of them were women. The women were tested very rarely for that high paying job because they did not want or need women.
Thousands of women would turn out for civil service policewomen testing for a mere handful of job openings. Despite the different duties the women were trained for things they’d never do like traffic enforcement or routine patrol. State law required all sworn officers receive the same training.
It was much more difficult for women to compete for policewoman positions then men seeking patrolman’s positions. The women were smarter, better educated and in so many ways better qualified. They could type reports much faster, knew how to spell, punctuate much better then the men. Some drove the squad cars like Danica Patrick and for some reason women often performed better then men on the firing range.
The original efforts at integration were considered an experiment. Many expected the women would fail miserably. In the end we learned that there were worthless cops of both sexes and the same was true for the exceptional ones. The experiment proved a success.
Joe Wambagh the former LAPD cop turned author put one of the best cop TV series ever on primetime. That was Police Story. These episodes vanished from TV and DVDs of the episodes never saw the light of day but thankfully they are now available on the Internet.
Episode six, Collision Course was about the policewomen patrol experiment. It stared Hugh O’Brien and Sue Ann Langdon along with some surprising big named actors. This is one of my favorite episodes ever.
This experiment was going on all over the nation and later the world. Watching it today it seems a little silly but back then this was really the way things were.
Sit back and watch a great episode of Police Story!