“The Dog That Didn’t Bark”
|Assistant Chief Anthony V. Bouza
We don’t pay enough attention to non-events. Ours is a culture that agonizes over reality but which refuses to learn from measures that precluded awful events.
There is a Sherlock Holmes story in which the sleuth divines the killer’s identity through a non-event. The suspect had to pass by a guard dog on his
(pretty much always a “he” by A. C. Doyle) way to a victim. Ergo, the dog must have known him if he didn’t bark. In the denouement, the villain indulges in a paroxysm of violence that conveniently seals his guilt. Why didn’t we experience a margin call crisis in the latest melt-down? “Margin Calls Trigger a Domino Collapse on Wall Street,” used to be fairly commonplace. No more. Why? Because you now have to put 50 percent down on any stock purchase. Imagine something like that (or even 20 percent) for a down-payment on a house. Imagine relaxed strictures on credit card debt and the number of cards allowed—not unimaginable given the credit-check controls familiar to anyone using plastic.
Which brings me to a very pleasant non-event—the furor over women in policing.
I’m always encountering feminist fulminations over glass ceilings but rarely meet up with accounts of real progress.
Let’s go back a few years—to the early seventies. There were a few female cops but they were co-opted into clerical, administrative, sideline functions, and they were there in miniscule numbers.
A bunch of criminal-anarcho-syndicalist-lefty lawyers (mostly men) began a series of lawsuits to overcome the barriers (height, weight, physical strength requirements). Only one little problem—they couldn’t find an active, high-ranking, credible male to testify that women could be cops (and, parenthetically, it’s important to note that changing the title from “policeman” to “police officer” made a whale of a difference).
|Commissioner Michael J. Codd
In September 1975 I was the NYPD’s Commander of all police forces in the Bronx and, after much cajoling and nagging, finally persuaded an FBI agent to
get an article I’d written into the “FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin,” their monthly magazine. It was titled “Women In Policing.” The subtext said “An idea whose time has come.” The lefty lawyers had their expert witness.
My colleagues fought the notion tooth and claw. I testified against a close friend in Albany, N. Y., beat a resisting group in Montgomery, Ala.,and stuffed a bitterly resistant LAPD with a 30-year court order requiring them to hire women, blacks and Hispanics.
We won every suit. I basically testified that women were not men (physically) but they could do the police job. They might fail in, say, 3 out of 10 cases they responded to (i.e., obtain an objectively satisfactory outcome), but men would also fail in that ratio, although the cases might be different. Women might mediate, conciliate or negotiate while men might seek to physically dominate. But either approach had its downside and training would take care of a lot. I also held that all—women and men—should be qualified by being given job-relevant mental and physical tests.
Today, women are in policing—at all rank levels including big-city chiefs—all over the U. S. and a lot of the world.
For those who think this was easy or would have happened through evolution, I’d point to fire departments and their resistant, male-dominated ranks and culture.
One of many curious sidelights: While at the Bronx I required the 70 or so women to do patrol. No inside jobs for them. I wanted them out there on the streets. A delegation of women officers came to see me. Women in uniform in the NYPD wore very short mini skirts. Every time they emerged from squads the macho ghetto residents whooped and hollered, whistled, rolled their eyes and made rude gestures and suggestions.
Flashing thighs undermined authority or attempts at control.
Couldn’t they wear pants?
I thought so and asked the police commissioner—a very upright, conservative Irish Catholic from Central Casting—and he wrote back he’d “referred my request to the Equipment Committee.” No pharaoh in his pyramid was ever
more securely interred.
What to do?
I finally decided to telephone each of the eleven precincts with permission to wear either skirts or pants (I later regretted not adding that this applied to both men and women). Overnight, every female was in blue trousers. And it spread through the entire department. No doubt sensing the potential fallout of rescinding my order or chastising me, the police commissioner (whose photo was—as required by protocol—included in my article for the FBI Bulletin) said and did nothing. I don’t think it’s too early to claim victory. As President Bush might say, “Ladies, you’ve done a heckuva job.”
But the revolution—like the barking dog—seems to have been a non-event. Feminists should take note of this stride as they continue to battle on fronts that require their attention.