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The Women Behind the Badge

Though many might consider the presence of female 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 women 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 female 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 female officers in its ranks.  He and his staff set some stringent requirements for female police candidates, including the necessity of a four-year college degree.  At the time, male officers needed only a high school diploma.

 

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. 

      Photo of early female officers   
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 female officer joined the ranks.  
 
 
photo of Charlotte's first black female police officer
...But Not Very Quickly
Five years passed before another woman would be hired and the department had yet to place a female 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 female 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 female patrol officer Jean Larson also made another "debut" for women in 1979, when she became the first female 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 female to attain rank.
   
 
 
 
  In 1983, Sergeants Huff and Sloan became the first female Captains.  They 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.