Boston’s O’Toole Among 200 Female Police Chiefs


The pioneering women of the Boston Police Department in the early 1970s caused a stir, says the Boston Globe. Mary L. Crowley was in the Boston Police Academy’s class of 1972, the first group of women allowed to carry guns. “Nobody wanted us,” Crowley, now a 54-year-old sergeant detective, recalled. “It was `the end of the department,’ you know, to have women on the job. I think it was a real blow to a lot of guys’ egos. A lot of guys were really great. It didn’t bother them. And then some guys, it really ticked them off.”

Women in the department got their ultimate validation when Mayor Thomas M. Menino tapped Kathleen M. O’Toole as the city’s first female police commissioner. The appointment of O’Toole, a Boston police officer from 1979 to 1986, has been greeted by women officers as confirmation of something they knew all along: They are just as qualified to direct traffic, walk a beat, lock someone up, sit on stakeouts, manage a squad, or even take a bullet.

O’Toole is the fourth woman in recent months to be named to head a big-city police department, including appointments in Detroit, Milwaukee, and San Francisco. Diane M. Skoog of the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, said an estimated 200 women nationwide are police chiefs. That figure is small compared with the number of police departments in America, but Skoog thinks the appointments of O’Toole and other women mean “that the powers that be are not doing the safe thing anymore and hiring a man.

The appointment in Boston, home to America’s first police force, is stirring memories among the women who first integrated the department, who recall messages left for them on the stationhouse blackboard suggesting they should be at home and pregnant, and their male counterparts calling in sick to avoid walking a beat with them.

The Boston press dubbed the first women officers Hogan’s Heroines after Captain William J. Hogan, the presiding officer of the police academy. Hogan’s Heroines began their police careers without dreams of glory. Most of the 12 were expecting to perform police jobs traditionally done by females, none of which included traditional patrol work or even carrying a gun.

Women make up about 13 percent of the force, slightly higher than the national average, and hold key positions. They work in the internal affairs unit, negotiate union contracts on behalf of the department, investigate homicides, run domestic violence units, and captain district patrols. They make up a majority of scientists in the crime lab. They head the legal department. They are the voice of the department to reporters.


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