Early in my law enforcement career, I overhead one of my supervisors and a fellow officer discussing a scheme where they would persuade a male to drive erratically to lure the department’s only female officer to conduct a traffic stop on a suspected intoxicated driver. Once stopped, the male was supposed to attack the female officer and teach her a lesson that she did not belong in law enforcement.
There was no shortage of laughs and giggles as the plan was pondered. I don’t know if they truly planned to carry out the unscrupulous act, but I was ostracized by some fellow officers for warning the intended victim. I was thankful that I didn’t let her get hurt. In retrospect, perhaps the male driver is the one who should be thankful that he didn’t get hurt and go to jail.
The following year, I stopped a man for driving under the influence of alcohol. He immediately stumbled from the car and verbally threatened to kick my you-know-what. I am not exactly sure today why I accepted the driver’s invitation, but as I motioned with my hands for him to bring it on, he staggered toward me with arms swinging.
Walking backward around the rear of the patrol car, I opened the passenger side rear door and signaled to my partner to open the opposite door. I climbed into the rear caged compartment with the boisterous drunk on my heels. In one continuous motion, I slid out the other side and closed the door just as my partner maneuvered to close the other door. This stunt infuriated the already agitated drunk, and his verbal crudeness increased when he realized he was trapped.
After a short calming period and the arrival of additional officers, the inebriated man was removed for searching and handcuffing. The event is as amusing today as it was unplanned nearly 40 years ago. It also illustrates that the brain can be mightier than brawn.
The calming effect of some female officers can defuse tense or violent situations. Women can also have a calmative effect on an entire police department. They are more likely to use physical force only after verbal communication is ineffective, but they don’t dawdle when force becomes necessary.
Social change and changes in law have helped women to advance in law enforcement. Today, women make up about 13 percent of law-enforcement officers.
Law enforcement is an ever-changing profession, and one in which women are playing a larger role. Thankfully, we have come a long way since the 1970s.
Charlie Sewell is the Powder Springs chief of police. His column runs occasionally in the Marietta Daily Journal.