Read Interviews with Women Police Officers
Learn about the history of women police officers in this interview with a Municipal Court Commissioner.
Adam Eisenberg is Commissioner of Seattle Municipal Court. Before taking the bench, he was a criminal prosecutor, a civil trial attorney, an advocate on mental health and domestic violence issues, and a Los Angeles-based entertainment journalist. His experience in court has brought him into contact with many women police officers. His countless interactions with women police officers gave him the idea for his new book A Different Shade of Blue: How Women Changed the Face of Police Work. In it, he sets out the history of female cops in America through the examples of 50 women in the Seattle Police Department.
As these women police officers recount their lives and experiences, they prove that female cops are indeed a positive and complementary presence on the police force.
We ran into Adam, and he had this to say about women police officers and law enforcement work.
What first got you interested in the role of women police officers?
The idea for A Different Shade of Blue first came to me when I was serving as a Seattle city prosecutor. One day in court, I struck up a conversation with a female police officer who had been patrolling the streets of Seattle for almost twenty years. She told me that when she began there were only a handful of women on the police force.
What are some of the challenges women police officers had to overcome?
From the 1910s through the 1960s, women were routinely segregated in police departments, and only allowed to do certain types of work. They received lower pay than male police officers, needed more education than their male counterparts, and weren't allowed to test for promotions alongside the men.
This began to change in 1961, and by the early 1970s, police women were finally allowed to compete head-to-head with men on tests for sergeant and higher ranks
But even today, women have to continually prove they can be effective in what has traditionally been viewed as a male-oriented profession. A Different Shade of Blue tells many stories—both serious and funny—about female officers' survival strategies.
How have women police officers contributed to making law enforcement what it is today?
Women approach conflict differently than men do, and this has brought a different mentality to the police profession. Female officers generally have a different philosophy that encourages more talking and less fighting when making arrests.
It is important to note that there are times when a fight cannot be avoided, and officers—male and female alike—have to prove to their colleagues that they're willing to jump into the fray to protect their fellow officers. All officers face a day of reckoning during their careers, and their reputations depend on how they handle themselves when the going gets tough.
Are there any general personality traits these police women share?
Not that I have noticed. The women police officers featured in my book are very diverse. Some are tall, some are short, some are thin, some are muscular, some are quiet, some are more verbose, some are more macho, some are more feminine.
Really, they reflect a wide range of personality types. In addition, A Different Shade of Blue explores many minority issues, from being the first African American or Asian American on the street, to the issues lesbian officers face.
What can future female cops learn from these cops' experience?
A Different Shade of Blue shows that the road was not an easy one for the women who were pioneers, and that there are still challenges ahead before female cops are truly equal to their male counterparts.
I think it's important for present and future police officers to understand this history so they can appreciate the women officers who came before them. This will also help them understand the still male-dominated profession that they are entering. While there have been many positive changes over the last 100 years, the "glass ceiling" and other obstacles still remain. A Different Shade of Blue will hopefully help new police women realize they are not alone.
What do you most respect about female cops?
I have observed female police officers both as a prosecutor and now as a court commissioner. Overall, I have been very impressed with their abilities to stay calm under pressure, to tell the facts as they recall them, and to answer questions respectfully. In my experience, female officers are generally very professional.
Ann Rule is a New York Times bestselling author of true crime books. How did she happen to write the foreword for your book?
Ann was a Seattle police woman for about 14 months in the mid-1950s, but the department let her go because she had poor eyesight. Although she went on to become a successful writer, she remained friends with many of the women she worked with, some of whom I interviewed for my book.
I first contacted Ann when I started researching A Different Shade of Blue, and stayed in touch with her over the years. When I asked her to write a foreword about her experiences in the police department, she graciously agreed.
For more information, visit www.adifferentshadeofblue.com. There is also a blog, Shades of Blue (www.adameisenberg.blogspot.com), for women officers to share their police stories from across the globe. A Different Shade of Blue is available in bookstores and online.
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