Even in 2017, Policing is Still “A Man’s Job”

Years ago, when I first graduated the police academy, I spent a weekend with my 86-year-old grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s. My grandmother, who never can remember the day of the week, the season, or the year, was raving about my new career choice.

“I’m so proud of you,” she told me during lunch. “I tell everyone I know that my granddaughter is a policewoman.”

(My grandmother, by the way, lives with my parents, and does not know or talk to anyone outside of our family.)

For the rest of the afternoon, my grandmother, and her broken-record mind, told me over and over again how proud she was to have a “policewoman” granddaughter.

The next day, she asked me if I had graduated high school.

“Yes, I did,” I told her. “I actually just graduated from the police academy. I’m a police officer now.”

My grandmother gasped loudly, her eyes widened, and she grabbed my arm and said, “But that’s a man’s job!”

While my (forgetful) grandmother has a much different perspective on gender roles than me (which apparently vary greatly, depending on the day), many people share her perspective, whether it be friends, coworkers or regular ol’ tax-paying citizens.

I, at one point, had a similar perspective. I never knew any police officers growing up, much less any lady officers. Law enforcement never occurred to me as a career because I thought cops were bulky, bald white men with no necks, college educations or patience.

And now, while some cops fit that description, I know most don’t. (I have PLENTY of college-educated skinny male coworkers with full heads of hair and plenty of patience, thank you very much.)

And even though it’s 2017, I’ve met plenty of men and women who adamantly believe men are a better fit for policework.

For example, a few weeks ago, a man, who appeared to be in his 40s, approached my patrol car and we had the following conversation:

“I spoke to a female sergeant a month ago and I can’t remember her name. Do you know her?” he asked.

“What does she look like? We have quite a few female sergeants.”

“What?!” The man looked at me in complete disbelief, as if I had just lied to him. “How is that possible?”

I responded by staring at him for about 20 seconds of dumbfounded silence before I finally said, “You know what, I actually have to leave.”

And I got back into my patrol car and drove away, because sometimes, some people are too stupid to chat with, even if they are law-abiding taxpayers.

While it’s annoying to hear this nonsense from a stranger, or even my grandmother, it’s worse when the distrust of female officers comes from within the profession. There aren’t many women in this line of work (less than 12 percent nationwide) so when one of us fucks up, or sleeps with a married coworker, or gets “undeservingly” promoted, that’s what people remember.

I cannot count how many men (in real life and on Twitter) who try and justify their perspective on women in law enforcement to me:

“But most female cops aren’t like you!”

“All the girls at the police academy liked to party so they earned ‘reputations.'”

“The problem with hiring women is that sometimes they get pregnant and can’t work patrol for a year.”

“The females in my academy class could be considered 2s on a good day, and they couldn’t shoot.”

(These, by the way, are verbatim things my male colleagues, whether it be online or in real life, have said to me. Every single one made me want to eyeroll myself into another dimension where I wouldn’t have to explain to other cops that shitty — and ugly — cops come in every gender, race and background.)

But all this gender-politics bullshit is worth it when I’m on a domestic dispute and a 6-year-old girl walks over and tugs my jumpsuit leg and tells me she wants to be a “policewoman” when she grows up, just like me.

Over the past few decades, this profession has made leaps and bounds in how it views and treats female cops. And while policing still has a long way to go, the only way to change it is to show those 6-year-old girls, the forgetful grandmothers, and male cops that yeah, girls can be cops, too.

Because maybe, by the time that 6-year-old enters this profession, things will be easier for her than it is for women now.

Advertisements

“I need a female officer to respond to my location.” No, no you don’t.

I have never asked specifically for a male officer to back me on a call. Yet, for some reason, male officers feel compelled to ask for the assistance of a female officer on a much more regular basis.

Sometimes it’s appropriate: Like when a female drug addict has meth in her bra. (Obviously, a female officer should be the one to fish it out.) Or, if a sexual assault victim specifically asks to speak with a female officer. Or, if a female suspect claims a male officer is behaving inappropriately. In that case, everyone is better off if a female officer shows up.

Most of the requests for female officers, however, are complete nonsense, and oftentimes a way for a male officer to dump crappy work on his female coworkers.

For example, a male officer once asked me to arrest a female suspect for him because she “didn’t like men.” Well, guess what, I arrest men who don’t like women all the time. Sucks to be a picky lawbreaker, I guess.

The worst incident I had involving a male coworker requesting my “help” on a call was a few months ago.

“Yeah, dispatch? I think it’d be more appropriate for a female to handle this call. So go ahead and send this call to our female officers.” 

His tone over the radio was so condescending that three different coworkers sent me messages or texted something along the lines of “Wow. That was… rude.”

 The call was a crazy woman who calls 911 nearly everyday. Everyone knows her. Everyone deals with her. And you don’t need a vagina to talk to her.

This particular officer had created a reputation for himself of dumping work on other people. He was an older and more senior officer than me, and this was not the first time he demanded I, a woman, drive across the city to “help him on a call.” (He seemed to think any situation involving a crying or upset woman, particularly if the women are crazy, required a female cop.)

Later on, I pulled him aside, and, as nicely as I could, I told him not to dump his shitty 911 calls on me.

He immediately started yelling at me, and several of our coworkers overheard him shouting.

“Fine!” he snarled after a 20-second, epic grown-man tantrum. “I’ll never ask for your help on a call again.”

He stormed off. A sergeant walked by, nodded and fist bumped me. “Good for you for not putting up with his crap,” he told me.

Three days later, shortly after midnight, that same officer got dispatched to a warrant subject inside a grocery store at about 1 a.m. I was off in an hour, and he was my least favorite coworker. But his back-up unit was across the city, while I was a few blocks away, so I self-dispatched to back him up.

When the dude with the warrant saw us, his right hand darted toward his sweatshirt pocket. I grabbed that arm, yanked his hand away from his pocket, while the other officer grabbed his other arm. The bad guy decided he didn’t want to go to jail, so after a series of expletives and a minor scuffle in the middle of the grocery store, we got him in handcuffs and put him in the back of a patrol car. I had never dealt with that particular turd before, but the other officer had.

“I’m glad you got here right away and grabbed his arm so quick,” he told me. “That guy rips off low-level drug users and usually carries a gun.”

Later on, he apologized for his tantrum. I don’t know if he did it because of our fight together, or because the entire SWAT team heard about his man tantrum and told him to stop being a little bitch.

As female officer, especially a new and young one, I know a few people I work with will try to walk all over me. As I wrote before, being a woman in a male dominated profession is about picking a few fights, while letting a lot of bullshit slide.

Despite that, I never let how people treat me dictate how I do my job. Even though I thought that officer was a bit of a lazy sexist, I would never want him to get hurt by some dipshit in a grocery store with a gun.

Yeah, it’s too bad I had to earn his respect by telling him to piss off, then not hesitating to get into a fight with a suspect alongside him. But, to his credit, that officer stopped dumping shitty calls on me, as well as the rest of his female coworkers after that.

Rumors: The worst part about being a lady cop

“Yeah, that new blonde girl? I heard she slept with one of the instructors at the police academy.”

This was the first rumor that spread around my department when I was brand new. It was completely false, I was not fucking an instructor at the academy (or anyone else for that matter) and, even two years after the fact, I am still confused about how or why the rumor started.

I do know that, at the time, it originated and was perpetuated by an officer who I had never spoken to. I was 25, a brand new police recruit, and mortified some of my coworkers thought I had slept my way through the police academy. Plus, I was pissed.

At the academy, I had worked my butt off. I had the highest grades in my class, and I had gone through all the usual bullshit of getting punched in the face, Tased and pepper sprayed. And I would have rather gone through that a second time then figure out how to deal with an untrue rumor that undermined my hard work.

At the time, as tempting as it was to correct the record, and you know, punch that gossipy moron in his face, I ignored it. I went through field training, focused on working hard, and got through it. And eventually, that rumor disappeared.

When I became a cop, I had to learn how to shoot a gun, develop a command presence, and defend myself in a fight. The most the most difficult thing I had to learn, however, was how to deal with rumors.

Police departments have more gossip than a middle school gym locker room. It is a 24/7 operation, which provides a festering breeding ground for around-the-clock rumors. While everyone gets talked about by their coworkers at one point or another, I’ve noticed that women, especially if they are new, younger or attractive, they will be the center of department gossip at one point or another.

I’m not saying my male coworkers don’t have to deal with rumors, because I know they do. The difference, however, is that rumors about female officers seem to revolve around the theme of sex. For some reason, who we are or are not sleeping with becomes everyone’s business.

After a few years of working in this field, as well as collecting advice from some of my female coworkers, here is my advice to women wanting to enter this line of work:

As a female cop, a lot of people (citizens, coworkers, your coworkers’ families, etc.) will assume you’re a lesbian or you’re fsleeping with your married male coworkers. Or both. (Don’t ask me how people jump to both conclusions simultaneously, but believe me, it happens.)

In terms of dealing with those assumptions: It’s 2017, so who gives a shit if someone thinks you’re a lesbian. And who gives a shit if you actually are a lesbian. No one cares, and if they do, that is their problem.

As for sleeping with your coworkers, married or not, — just don’t do it. Unless you’re positive you will marry the guy and live happily ever after, it’s not worth it. That being said, I’ve never done it and I have several coworkers who are happily married to one another. But I’ve also seen first-hand the flaming pile of shit that explodes all over the department when things end poorly.

Another way to avoid rumors is to not go out drinking with your male coworkers, especially if you’re new and the only woman there.

I understand that I will never be “one of the boys.” And I’m okay with that. I don’t need to go to Hooters with them (off duty, of course), or Vegas, or anything else involving alcohol with a group of men I spend more than 40 hours a week with anyway.

I will never fully fit in with a large group of men, and I don’t try to, because I know if I do, someone somewhere in my department will decide I’m trying to ruin a marriage.

The best, and most basic advice I have in dealing with rumors, however, is to try your best to ignore it. The truth is, if a rumor starts about you, by next week, everyone will likely be gossiping about someone else’s mistake or indiscretion.

Ignore the rumors, and focus on working hard. Let the 24/7 gossip cycle of the department to run its course. Focus on your job, and don’t let gossip dictate how you do it.

“What’s it like being a female cop?” Well, it’s complicated.

The two questions I get the most about my job is “What’s it like being a female cop?” and “Don’t you get scared?”

Ironically, I don’t think any of my male coworkers have ever been asked if they “get scared” while I know every single female coworker of mine has been asked that at least once by a stranger.

As for the first question, the answer is a complicated one. I, along with every other woman I work with, got into police work to arrest bad guys, not to win a battle for feminism in gender politics.

Whether you’re a male or female police officer, someone will always want to pick a fight with you, whether it is a disgruntled citizen, a supervisor, a coworker or a suspect. Like everything else in life and police work, being a woman in a male-dominated profession is about picking some fights, while letting a lot of bullshit slide.

Every female cop has a different experience and chooses to handle conflicts in a various ways. Sometimes it seems easier to be a female cop than a male one. Like when a big, angry drunk guy (who is a well-known local turd who likes to fight the police) needed to go to jail. He looked at me and said, “You’re too pretty to fight” and he turned around and put his hands behind his back without me even asking him. (This same gentlemen then sang along to Justin Beiber all the way to jail.)

On the flipside, I once had a suspect, who I had never met before, try and punch me in the face the second I arrived on scene because I was a “white bitch.” On a different occasion, I had to arrest a male suspect who honestly wanted to kill and “gut” me simply because I was a woman.

The point of me writing about this topic isn’t to go on some sort of girl-power crusade or whine about what I’ve gone through or what I’ve seen some of my female colleagues go through.

I love my job, my community, my coworkers, and I love being a girl. I want to share some of my honest and funny experiences with people, and give advice to other women who want to enter this awesome profession.

Part of me is dreading writing about this topic at all on here: I already know there will be the people who dismiss this entire topic as being an “attractive woman’s plight,” grumpy retired (male) cops tell me about how the women who came before me in this profession had it a lot worse than me (as if this wasn’t a giant fucking duh anyway), and the seemingly large group of people on the Internet who seem convinced men and women are always treated equally and troll anyone who offers a perspective that conflicts with that belief.

Is my experience as a female in this profession that much harder than my male coworkers? Overall, no, but it is, without a doubt, a different experience that comes with different challenges.

So, here we go, for the next few weeks I will be writing about dealing with men who hate women, department gossip, crying at work, the personality changes that go along with this job, as well as advice I have for other women out there who want to put bad people in jail for a living.

Cops Are Not Walking Google Search Engines

One time on dayshift, I made the unfortunate mistake of parking in an empty lot of a closed business in order to make a phone call to an elderly man wanting to report a theft.

A few minutes into the call, I saw another car pull into the lot. The driver parked, got out of his car, and walked up to the door of the closed business and pulled on it. He looked confused, spotted me, and walked toward me.

I got out of my patrol car (because no matter how normal someone looks, you don’t ever stay in your car if someone wants to talk to you) and I pointed to the cell phone and mouthed “Sorry, I’m on the phone.”

The man paused a few feet away from me and waited patiently to talk to me.

“I need to renew my car’s registration,” he told me, when I told the theft victim on the phone that’d I’d have to call him back.

I looked at him, confused. Cops, after all, do not renew vehicle registrations. Then I realized my huge, huge mistake. The closed business was the DMV.

I tried to explain to the man that I couldn’t help him because I didn’t work at the DMV. That, however, only prompted more questions.

Did I know why the DMV was closed? (“It’s Sunday?”) Did I know when it would open? (“Tomorrow?”) Did I know of another DMV office that was open? Could I tell him directions to an open DMV?

Meanwhile, another vehicle had pulled into the lot, and that driver had also gotten out of the car, realized the DMV was closed, and he too had started walking toward me.

“I’m really sorry, I don’t know. Maybe check online?” I offered as I opened my car door, trying to politely exit the conversation before another confused citizen began asking me DMV-related questions.

The questions, however, continued. Could he renew his tabs online? If he didn’t renew his tabs today, could he get a ticket? How much would the ticket be?

By that time, the second person had reached my patrol car and stood behind the first, as if he were actually in line inside the DMV.

I had no clue about anything having to do with the DMV, but because of my uniform they both assumed I was an all-knowing, walking and talking Google search engine.

When I saw a third vehicle pull into the parking lot, I blurted out, “I’m sorry, I have to go!” and quickly got into my car and drove away. I almost put on my lights so the forming line of confused would-be DMV patrons would think I had an actual emergency to go to.

When I’m in uniform, people expect me to know everything, and citizens (bless them) often don’t realize that approaching a cop in the middle of an arrest or on a traffic stop to ask what time the sushi restaurant four blocks away closes is A) distracting B) dangerous and C) something I don’t know anyway.

I was once on perimeter for a felony assault suspect when a friendly man came up to me to ask directions to a specific store located in a different city more than 20 minutes away.

The conversation, in which I tried to be as nice as possible, went something like this:

Me: “Do you have Google maps on your phone?”

Him: “Yes.”

Me: “That’s probably a more reliable source than me.”

Another time I had someone stop me while I walking to an in-progress theft and say, “Oh good! You’d know this! I heard there’s a new Chinese restaurant around here. Can you tell me where it’s located?”  (Because apparently I look like I eat Chinese food?)

I’m not as smart and all-knowing as people think. Google, however, is.

Legally Blonde: The Misadventures of a Blonde Lady Cop

Hi guys.

I’m going to try and do this. This blog thing. I resisted starting a blog for years, but lately I’ve been writing a lot, and I’ve had nowhere to put it. Plus, everyone on Twitter keeps telling to start a blog. (You win again, Twitter.)

I love being a cop, and I love stories. I love reading stories, I love telling stories and, most of all, I love writing stories. And being a cop, especially a blonde lady cop, gives me so many stories that I sometimes feel like I might explode. Some stories are sad, some are frustrating, and others are funny.

Truthfully, the main reason why I became a cop in the first place was so when I am an old lady in the nursing home, I can tell my grandchildren rowdy stories about chasing perverts and thieves through the city.

I suspect I will still spend most of my time on Twitter, but some stories require a few more than 140 characters and a well-selected GIF to tell.

So here we go with the Misadventures of a Blonde Lady Cop.