The Case for Female Officers

by DeJustice Coleman A few years ago, as a columnist for a small independent monthly newspaper, I wrote a story that explained why I believe law enforcement needed more female command officers across the nation. Perhaps in a bit of foresight, the story turned out to be a tribute to a contemporary female special agent, Yvette Summerour of the United States Secret Service. She is one smart lady with the courage of a dare-devil and the heart of a lion. Yvette is an 18-year veteran of the Secret Service and spent seven years guarding presidents in Washington, DC. This lady has paid big time professional dues, and is a winner and leader of African-Americans and others, especially females, in this industry. I finally had the pleasure of meeting Yvette by telephone. It is my view that she certainly has what it takes to be successful in that hard-nosed, male-dominated federal agency. This young lady has “true grit” a la John Wayne. Law enforcement slowly is awakening to the realities of trends in this global world and its nuclear-age society. It now recognizes women as vital partners in an intricate law enforcement equation – an awareness whose time has truly come. The City of Milwaukee recently faced this reality, hiring Nan Hegerty as its first female Police Chief ever. Although I have not had the pleasure of meeting Hegerty, having recently read about her law enforcement career in Wisconsin Woman magazine, attended some events where she was a guest speaker, closely followed her overall management style, and taken into account some of her hard-fast personnel decisions, I must admit I am impressed. Since transferring from California in 1978, I have held a constant view about Milwaukee and its police-minority relations. For minorities, life in this city generally has been true “dog days” in areas of police deportment, lack of respect, “officer-friendly” inquest shenanigans, and the overall policies of local law enforcement and practices of the criminal justice system. And these observations are from one, who, without hesitation, is pro-police and law enforcement. Several years have passed since I wrote a comprehensive application for the Chief of Police job for the city of Milwaukee. In it, I stressed the positives of Community Policing and benefits that would flow to all of its citizens from this program. All police officers should be trained to become expert “people handlers.” Industry standards dictate that most untoward acts, such as shooting and brutality, in which police officers become involved either as proponents or victims, stem from inadequate training. These deficiencies must be corrected immediately! We need a law enforcement approach that emphasizes and promotes straightforward, operational principles with “soft tones and hues,” and an accommodating, co-existing approach with the citizens it is designed to serve and protect. I believe women are an almost ideal psychological fit in this novel approach. Gone are the days of the “Rambo” type police officer. Generally, police over-zealousness begets overzealous resistance. In a 40-plus year career, I have strong opinions about what is needed to bring law enforcement up to a standard that promotes efficiency, accountability, and overall effective service to the people it is designed to serve. Females should be regarded as true role models in this new and better approach to more effective policing in this nation. DeJustice Coleman has worked 42 years as a City Police Officer in Illinois, as a Resident Agent of the Secret Service, and 17-plus years as owner of the Wisconsin-based Private Investigative Agency. Since 1999, he has been a board member of the Private Security Advisory Council in Madison, WI, which oversees the operational functions of security guards and private investigators in this state. He also has 10 years teaching experience in Basic Police Training Academies in California and Wisconsin.