I recently ran across a talk I gave nearly 15 years ago. It was on the 25th Anniversary of hiring women as uniformed patrol officers and I would like to share it today.
Madison (Wisc.) was one of the first of a growing number of police departments in our nation who also thought this was necessary in order to move the policing field forward and improve the quality of our services. Women police have made an enormous contribution to policing. But in order for them to do so, there must be adequate NUMBERS of them in a police agency. When I say adequate numbers, I mean above 20 percent of officers. Simply having one or two women in a police agency is not enough for women to positively influence the organization. That”s why diversity and balance are necessary in our nation’s police. Policing would be far less fair and effective today without their presence.
They have not only done the job, but have done it well. Thanks to all of you!
The Celebration of Women Police on Patrol — 25 Years in Madison
February 16, 1999, Inn at the Park, Madison, Wisconsin
The Rev. David Couper (Chief of Police, 1972-93)
Let us pray: God of Abraham and Sarah, look favorably upon these women who serve you with justice and compassion. Let their voices and deeds blend with their sister prophets and warriors; sisters who have served you through history: Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Judith, Mary of Nazareth, Mary Magdalene, Hilda, Hildegaard, Dorothy Day and Sojourner Truth. Protect, guide and bless them, and bless us all with wisdom and in strength this day and forever more. AMEN.
I can’t tell you how much this means to me to be here today. I am delighted to be part of this wonderful and historic celebration.
I want to take this opportunity today to tell you how proud I am of you! How much I respect you and the work you do.
Your years of service to Madison are an immeasurable contribution to the quality of life in this fine city.
Some of us took a calculated chance 25 years ago. We wanted to “do the right thing.” We wanted to integrate this police department for two reasons: to improve the quality of police service and to reflect the composition of the community in the ranks of the police department.
I’m sure most people in the city have forgotten that before 1974, women served a limited function on the Madison Police Department — that of juvenile officer (we called them “Policewomen”) — They were carry-overs from the “police matron” days.
But the women had to be better educated than the men. They were even more courageous — they were prohibited from carrying a firearm and had to have a four-year college degree to become a “Policewoman.” They couldn’t work other jobs in the department. And they couldn’t compete for promotion to higher rank. It’s hard to believe that was only 25 years ago!
The first woman inside the department to take advantage of our new policies was Morlynn Frankey. The first from outside the department and still working, was Marlene Wendel.
The idea in the early days was that the police department had to have women to handle female prisoners and children. Rather like in the South when police departments first hired blacks. They were to be police officers in a limited capacity — to arrest blacks, not whites. They were okay as long as they stayed in within their place.
I think the same applied to women. They were okay as long as they were just handling other women and children — in their place.
But we decided the world was changing and we were going to change with it — we were going to be a part OF it, not against it. We decided that because it was simply a better way to run a police department. We envisioned the future which was unfolding before us. Sure, it wasn’t easy. Change never is!
Remember, at the time I was a brand new, 34-year-old chief of police, who came to town on a 3-2 vote by the Police and Fire Commission. I had more ideas than common sense!
To make a long story short, as a result of our decision to more thoroughly integrate the police department, you responded to that call to service and you kept on responding.
I know! It was not without hardship and suffering. Yet you hung in there, you fought the good fight. You fought it for your grandmothers. You fought it for your mothers. You fought it for your sisters. You fought it for your daughters and your granddaughters — and most of all you fought it for yourself.
I am sure there is still work that needs to be done to make the Madison Police Department an ever-greater and more excellent police department. This is not the time to settle back and relax.
Wasn’t that what we were all about — striving for greatness and excellence?
The department continues its pursuit of greatness and excellence when its men and women are one, equal, committed, and fully reflective of the community.
The department continues its pursuit of greatness and excellence when its men and women consider their role as police officers as being the primary defender of this nation’s freedom — defenders of the Bill of Rights.
The department continues its pursuit of greatness and excellence when its men and women always remember that integrity once lost is not easily regained.
The department continues its pursuit of greatness and excellence when its men and women understand that the authority to use force is a sacred trust given them by their community.
The department continues its pursuit of greatness and excellence when the police department is 1/2 male, 1/2 female, when the police department reflects the colors of the human rainbow, and does it without differentiation as to a person’s sexual orientation.
My vision has always been to have this police department be always on the cutting edge of the police service — for this police department to be undeniably not just the best police department in Wisconsin, not just the best police department in America, but the best police department in the world.
I hope it is your vision, too. For we are told that without vision, we perish! Keep pressing on… Fight the good fight. Fight for what is right. And do the right thing.
Thank you for blessing me with your presence here today; for working with me as your colleague… And for often considering me your brother.