“You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!”

chief's badgeDuring the heart of the feminist movement, in 1968, a cigarette manufacturer used the slogan, “You’ve come a long way, baby!” They were right, but in ways they could not have imagined today!

Here are some biographical highlights of three women who’ve come a long way, who now lead  police departments in major American cities — Lanier in Washington, DC, Harteau in Minneapolis, and O’Toole in Seattle.  

As they take over top leadership, they all face major organizational problems involving from use-of-force lawsuits to managing federally imposed decrees.

Nevertheless, this truly is a new era of leadership in policing. It first began in the early 1970s. Most of those women who were in the “first wave” are now retired. However, they paved the way for women today.

Women comprise 30 percent of sworn officers on the Madison Police Department. Nationally, the number of female police officers average between 11 and 13 percent. For a city its size, the percentage of women officers in Madison may be the highest in the nation. It took those of us in my era almost 20 years to blaze the way and foster a culture that accepts and encourages women in policing.

Much also needs to be said about the important role that Lesbians have played in growing these numbers — by being informal recruiting officers and making policing a desired career.

Let us celebrate the role of women in policing.


For women professionals:

International Association of Women Police.

National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives.

Women Leaders in Law Enforcement.


For my earlier posts on this subject see:

They’ve Come A long Way: Women in Policing

A Tribute to Women Police

Hiring Women: The Best Thing I Ever Did

The Greatest Factor in Improving Police


Chief Cathy Lanier – Washington, DC

Cathy_LanierLanier was appointed chief of police by Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty in January 2007. She is the first woman to achieve the position. In May 2012, Mayor Vincent C. Gray agreed to retain Lanier as police chief under a new five-year contract.

She has both Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in management from Johns Hopkins University and holds a Master of Arts in national security studies from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California; her thesis was Preventing Terror Attacks in the Homeland: A New Mission for State and Local Police.

Lanier dropped out of junior high school after the ninth grade, and became a mother at the age of 15. She now resides in the Fort Lincoln area of northeast Washington’s Ward 5, close to her home town.

She joined the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia in 1990 as a foot patrolman. In 1994 she was promoted to Sergeant, and, two years later, a Lieutenant, before becoming a patrol supervisor.

In 1999, she became a Captain and, later that year, was promoted to Inspector and placed in charge of the Department’s Major Narcotics Branch/Gang Crime Unit. In August 2000, she was promoted to Commander-in-Charge of the Fourth District of the city. In April 2006, she became the Commander at the Office of Homeland Security and Counter-terrorism overseeing, among other things, the bomb squad and the emergency response team.

[To read more, CLICK HERE.]


Chief Janeé Harteau – Minneapolis

hARTEAUNever mind the nightstick. The slender wooden club in Chief Harteau’s new office is an anachronism, a reminder of what law enforcement used to be.

It dates to the early days of her cop career in Minneapolis, which began in 1987. She was 22 then, and had put herself through law-enforcement school by singing in a hard-rock band. Over the years, she suffered a broken nose from a sucker-punch, a damaged thumb from tackling a suspect, and such dangerous harassment from fellow cops that she and then-patrol partner Holly Keegel filed a complaint that helped reform the department. (Keegel is now a sergeant on the force, and she and Harteau live as domestic partners with their teenage daughter.) Harteau is the first female police chief in Minneapolis, one of just three overseeing a major American city.

You are part French-Canadian and part Native American. Does that come through in your day-to-day life? I’m not a person who can be put in a box. But how that background does come out is that I have a lot of empathy for different experiences; I tend to see things through many eyes.

The perception of crime downtown always seems to be worse than the reality. How do you fix that? If people see uniforms, if they see the Downtown Improvement District ambassadors, they feel better. There are 13 private security officers downtown for every police officer—we need to tap that resource. But also, downtown is very urban and it should look urban. Some people from the suburbs are not used to seeing that. We need to educate people about what’s wrong with an area and what’s just naturally urban.

Minneapolis has paid millions in recent years to settle police-misconduct cases. How do you turn that around? There are two ways to change behavior: discipline and training. Give officers the skills and tools to do their job, and make sure we’re clear on what’s appropriate. I’ll be asking officers, in every encounter they have, to reflect on how they would want a family member to be treated—what language they’d use, what actions they’d take. That doesn’t mean force shouldn’t be used, but you need to ask, “Is it reasonable?”

[To read more, CLICK HERE.]


Chief Kathleen O’Toole — Seattle

otoole 3O’Toole was nominated by Mayor Ed Murray on May 19 after a nationwide search. She became the first woman to be selected for the job on a full-time basis.

O’Toole previously served as Boston’s first female police commissioner from 2004 to 2006.

She will immediately take over a beleaguered Seattle department, which has been operating for two years under a federal consent decree to curtail excessive force and biased policing.

O’Toole, who’s pledged to make the reforms a top priority, has said she plans to evaluate the senior command staff, which has been repeatedly shaken by retirements, changes and scrutiny in the last year. Mayor Murray has asked her to bring in at least one outside assistant.

O’Toole glided through the confirmation process, emphasizing four themes: restoring public trust; rebuilding pride inside the department; improving the quality of life and reducing crime in neighborhoods; and operating the department as an effective and efficient business.

After leaving Boston, O’Toole served from 2006 to 2012 as chief inspector of the national police in Ireland in the wake of a major corruption scandal. Most recently, she has worked as a law-enforcement consultant.

O’Toole began her police career in 1979, joining the Boston Police Department as a patrol officer. She spent seven years there before holding various public and private jobs in Massachusetts, including that of secretary of public safety and lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts State Police.

[To read more, CLICK HERE.]





  1. The number of women who have become Chiefs in smaller Wisconsin communities has also been growing recently.


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