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The Women Behind the Badge

Though many might consider the presence of women police officers a "post-liberation phenomenon," the then Charlotte Police Department's history of women behind the badge dates back to 1925 and a young woman named Eloise Brown.

Mrs. Brown's hiring might have raised some eyebrows in the pre-Depression era, but records show she was devoted to her duty, first as a member of the detective division, where she spent long hours developing a systematic record-filing technique.

Two years later, she was put in charge of a license bureau and, in 1928, Mrs. Brown became an assistant clerk of court, a job she held until World War II. In 1941, the military-depleted ranks of the police department opened up two more positions Mrs. Brown capably filled: dispatcher and desk sergeant. At the end of the war, she took the job of chief secretary in the Traffic Division and eventually retired in 1959.

Mrs. Brown wasn't Charlotte's only woman officer during her 34 year career. Amalie "Tilley" Wallnau and Stella "Pat" Patterson joined the ranks during the period, both holding similar jobs.

Nearly a decade after Mrs. Brown's retirement, Chief John Ingersoll decided the department needed sworn women officers in its ranks. He and his staff set some stringent requirements for women police candidates, including the necessity of a four-year college degree. At the time, male officers needed only a high school diploma.

Officers Mickey Casey and Gail Sloan pictured Charlotte policewomen Mickey Casey (Ret. 12/96) and Gail Sloan (Ret. 10/89) getting ready to enforce a curfew during the civil disturbances following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968. At that time, policewomen were not allowed to wear slacks on duty.

These Times, They Are A Changin'...

In the Spring of 1967, Officers Gail Sloan, Mickey Casey, Sally Keene and Jeanette Houser became the first women hired by the Charlotte Police Department for the specific job of sworn officer.

They set another historic precedent by becoming the first policewomen to attend the police academy with male officers and to be assigned law enforcement duties comparable to those of their male counterparts. Three of the four emerged as academy graduates and became investigators in the Youth Bureau. The following year, Cheryl Horner and Annie M. Gillespie, the department's first black woman officer joined the ranks.

Officers Annie M. Gillespie pictured ...But Not Very Quickly

Five years passed before another woman would be hired and the department had yet to place a woman in the uniform patrol ranks. But in 1973, Chief J.C. Goodman made the decision to lift the "uniform barrier," and Jean Larson was hired to work in the Patrol Bureau. From that point on, additional women officers were hired to work in patrol, fraud, sex crimes, the detective division and the Police Attorney's Office.

Gaining Ground and Growing

First-time patrol officer Jean Larson also made another "debut" for women in 1979, when she became the first woman sergeant in the department. Three others followed in the late seventies and early eighties: Piper Charles, Gail Sloan and Andrea Huff. Officer Huff, promoted in August 1980, was the first black woman to attain rank.

In 1983, Sergeants Huff and Sloan became the first women Captains. T​hey were joined in 1987 by Sergeants Piper Charles and Judy Dinkins. It appeared, after more than 60 years, that the doors were finally open to women. Thus a rather quiet beginning evolved into an accepted tradition, and "women behind the badge" were no longer oddities. By early 1990, female ranks in the Charlotte Police Department included 115 officers, 9 Sergeants and 2 Captains.

As of January 2014, women accounted for about 14% of the CMPD's sworn ranks and hold the rank from Sergeant to Deputy Chief.

The Mecklenburg County Police Department The Mecklenburg County Police Department also set historical precedents concerning women police officers. It's been over ten years since the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County operated two separate and distinct police departments. In 1993, a decision was made by City and County government officials to merge the two departments into one in order to bring better and more efficient police services to the growing community.

I'm a Woman and I Want to be a Police Officer

What is it like?

Being a police officer can be the most fascinating and satisfying career you could ever choose. Policing today has professional standards and high expectations of those who enter. The police are often the first, and sometimes the only, contact many citizens will have with a government representative. Police actions can influence attitudes about the entire government system.

Charlotte prides itself on the level of professionalism to which all officers are held. Recruiting women is an integral part of building a police department that is representative of the community it serves.

Today's policing environment is more receptive than ever before to the unique skills that women bring to policing. Yet, there are still myths about women in the policing field that persist.

Myth: You have to be almost perfect to be a police officer.

    Fact: Standards are high, but not unattainable. For instance, everyone must:

    bullet point graphicbe at least 21 years old

    bullet point graphichave a high school diploma or GED

    bullet point graphicbe able to get an North Carolina OR South Carolina driver's license (based on your state of residence​) AND have a minimum of 2 years driving experience, using a VALID driver's license.​

    bullet point graphichave an Honorable Discharge (if applicable) from any military service (General Discharges may be considered)

    bullet point graphicpass a background investigation, polygraph screening, psychological screening, and medical exam

    bullet point graphicpass a drug test and currently be drug free, with no past use of certain drugs, including cocaine, LSD, or heroin

    bullet point graphichave no felony convictions

    However, we recognize that people can make mistakes. Some consideration may be given to candidates who:

    bullet point graphichave a Class B misdemeanor conviction older than 5 years

    bullet point graphichave less than 4 Class A misdemeanors within the last 5 years

    bullet point graphichave previously tried marijuana

Myth: Police applicants need to already know a lot about self-defense, laws and using firearms

    Fact: Many police applicants have no background in any of those things – many have never fired a gun, studied criminal law or done any kind of martial arts. CMPD pays police recruits while they attend over 900 hours or about 25 weeks of training. The training will teach new police officers all of the basic skills needed to be a police officer, such as:

    bullet point graphicConstitutional, state and traffic laws

    bullet point graphicDefensive tactics and physical training

    bullet point graphicFirearms training and defensive driving

    bullet point graphicInvestigative procedures and report writing

    bullet point graphicCMPD policies and procedures

    bullet point graphicNew technologies, including laptop computers

    After completing the academy, new officers ride with a PoliceTraining Officer for 14-16 weeks to begin applying new skills to real-world situations.

Myth: Women aren't thick skinned enough to be good police officers.

    Fact: Police officers are exposed to undesirable and sometimes traumatic incidents. Compassion and empathy during those times serves the community well. Many of the interpersonal skills women traditionally possess are invaluable to effective policing.

Myth: Police work requires people who are physically imposing.

    Fact: Police work is not all about size and muscles. You do have to pass a job-related physical ability test, but good general physical conditioning is more important than size or strength.

Myth: Police officers aren't supposed to get scared.

    Fact: All police officers, at one time or another, have faced situations that caused them to be afraid. The television and movie version of police work is exaggerated. While police work can be dangerous, even life-threatening, officers are trained and equipped to deal with these situations. The daily work of policing is relatively safe.

Myth: Women police are faced with a lot more situations where they must use a gun.

    Fact: Police officers must sometimes make life and death decisions. There may be an incident which causes any officer to use deadly force. Officers receive over 120 hours of training specifically in firearms, shoot-don't-shoot scenarios, use of force and legal training which helps prepare them for this type of situation. Statistically, though, the majority of men and women police officers retire from law enforcement without ever having to use deadly force.

Myth: There is little support for women in policing.

    Fact: The CMPD has a Women's Network Committee staffed by rank and file women police. The committee is available to mentor women police officers and also helps recruit, retain and promote women officers. In addition, there is always an informal support network of senior officers who gladly provide guidance to new officers.

Myth: Women officers face sexual harassment.

    Fact: Policies of the CMPD and the City of Charlotte strictly prohibit sexual harassment in the work place. Any reported incidents of sexual harassment are thoroughly investigated and offenders are subject to the appropriate level of punishment, which could include termination.

Myth: Women police encounter relationship problems with loved ones who cannot accept their chosen profession.

    Fact: When someone enters a profession that could involve danger, there is some apprehension by those who care about that person. CMPD offers ride-along programs and family education programs that help alleviate the fears of family members by allowing them to see first-hand the amount of backup and support officers receive from peers.

Myth: It is very difficult to be a mother and a police officer while working varying shifts.

    Fact: Most officers are assigned permanent shifts within the first two years of their careers. Many CMPD women are working mothers. Some are single mothers.

Myth: Being a woman police officer is very different from being a male officer.

    Fact: Badges come in gold or silver, not pink or blue. Policing is a challenging and rewarding profession limited only by the abilities of the individual officer. There are thousands of successful women in policing today. As more women have entered the profession, there is greater acceptance among their peers and the public.

Myth: Career paths for women police are limited.

    Fact: Opportunities for CMPD women are unlimited and include:

    bullet point graphicRadio Response Officer

    bullet point graphicBike and Foot Patrol

    bullet point graphicCommunity Police Officer

    bullet point graphicInvestigator

    bullet point graphicCanine Officer

    bullet point graphicSchool Resource Officer

    bullet point graphicHighway Interdiction and Traffic Safety

    bullet point graphicLake Enforcement Officer

    bullet point graphicSpecial Weapons and Tactics

    bullet point graphicTraining and/or Recruitment

    bullet point graphicComputer Technology Services

Current Women in Policing

A New World Awaits Those Ready To Challenge It!