March is Women’s History Month, and given Caliber Public Safety’s longtime commitment to supporting law enforcement personnel while helping all involved to better serve their communities, now is a great time to look at the history of women in law enforcement.
Women in law enforcement have enjoyed a long history. In New York, Flora Foster served as a “prison matron” from 1945 until her death in 1882.
In 1891, Marie Owns was designated “patrolman” in Chicago (although she did not, in fact, serve on patrol). In 1906, the first female officer lost her life in the line of duty. In 1908, Officer Lola Baldwin was sworn in as part of the Portland, Oregon police force (after spending some time working in a support capacity). New Jersey hired the first female deputy sheriff, Constance Kopp, in 1916. Constance had served as a jail matron and is notable for having captured an escaped fugitive at a Brooklyn subway stop a full year before she was sworn in as a deputy.
The year 1920 saw the first woman elected to the position of Sheriff (in North Carolina). In 1946, the first Latina policewoman joined the Los Angeles Police Department. (Her name was Josephine Serrano.) The first female officers to take control of a police car, number 47, were Betty Blankenship and Elizabeth Robinson in Indianapolis. The year was 1968.
The Seventies and Eighties saw an explosion in the hiring of women in law enforcement. As their presence in the profession grew, these women also began working their way up the command hierarchy. Heather Fong was the first Asian woman to serve as chief of police of a major metropolitan area in 2004 (in San Francisco). In 2021, the first black woman to become acting chief of the US Capitol Police, Yogananda Pittman, took her position in leading the security forces of the US Capitol complex.
Today, 16.8% of police officers are women. Depending on the statistics cited, this means there are somewhere between 70,000 to 140,000 female police officers serving in the US. (The figure varies depending on whether you count full- and part-time officers, the sources included, etc.) Even at the most conservative estimates, that is not an insignificant number. Women in law enforcement are responsible for a tremendous amount of the policing and first-response activity taking place in our country – and we are all better off for it.
As we’ve said on these pages, the software products that Caliber Public Safety provides support law enforcement at every level – local, state, and federal. We seek to provide law enforcement, emergency services personnel, and other first responders with the information, vital context, and communication tools they require to help keep them safer and more informed, no matter what challenges they face. This month and every month, Caliber salutes the men and women of law enforcement… with particular emphasis, this March, on the women serving in that capacity.