History in Blue: 160 years of women police, sheriffs, detectives, and state troopers.
Allan T. Duffin. Published by Kaplan Publishing, a division of Kaplan, Inc. NY. 2010.
254 pages, plus acknowledgements, bibliographical references and index.
Reviewer: Jeff Morris
February 24, 2010
Allan Duffin weaved a fascinating historical blend with yarns cast by women in blue who overcame culturally discriminating obstacles and strengthened the fabric of law enforcement professionals in the United States. History in Blue: 160 Years of Women Police, Sheriffs, Detectives, and State Troopers captivates readers detailing challenges with actual events as women entered law enforcement in the 19th century as police matrons. Early on, women were relegated to women and juvenile issues. Just changing the name from policeman to police officer seems subtle, but is recognition of the great strides women made while achieving higher positions. The story ranges from the 1840's through Civil War, World Wars I and II, the civil and equal rights movements into our current 21st century debate over the legality of same-sex partnerships. Women now hold over 100,000 law enforcement positions in the U.S. from entry level through Police Commissioner and Chief.
History in Blue... provides actual police women and their stories as they cleared barriers in the male dominated field. The personal stories validate the cultural challenges women faced. The experiences crisscrossed the United States, ranging from Hawaii to Maine; Alaska to Florida; the heartland, plains; mid-west, south, north, east, west - life experiences recounted in their own words craft this page turning historical reference. Nearly every reader will find an experience from their state. Yet it reads fast like a John Grisholm, Joseph Wambaugh, or Tom Clancy novel.
Early accounts as social enforcers separating overly aggressive young lovers, arresting mashers, spooners, and fox-trot dancers progressed through the long uphill battle of the 1950's -1970's and developed into prostitution stings, infiltrating drug rings, sending untold numbers of unsuspecting criminals behind bars. Civil and equal rights legislation forced progress through the 1970's and 1980's putting women and race in a pressure cooker performing their duties enforcing the law against dismissive and defiant men. Policemen's wives increased the pressure with their concerns over policewomen riding shifts with their husbands. Height and weight entry issues, uniforms, bullet-proof vest, and hand gun size - all of these and more reflect the arduous steady movement from more polite times to the brutally blunt current times in 2009. Allan Duffin energized a passive historical review into furious page turner for general readers to learn more about the challenges and contributions women make to the law enforcement profession.
The issues keep you turning pages. Experiences recount how limited duties and little respect graded the roadbed for the first police women. Beth Bradbury's account from Idaho recalled the six foot "mark on the door frame...If you were shorter that that, they wouldn't hire you as a police officer." Other department's higher education requirements and lower pay filled the roadbed to pursue sex discrimination leading to equal pay. Riveting accounts from Indiana's Jill Rice in 1993 during a drug sting from Texas to Indiana capturing drug suppliers, and dealers in a well coordinated bust using local, state, federal and military resources. Julia Grimes from Alaska tells about flying her Cessna 185 to Manakotak after an aircraft crashed into the tundra. From the ground to the skies, women recount frontline life experiences of success and detailed tragic accounts of women and men who lost their lives in the line of duty. All while policewomen endured ridicule, harassment, and dressed in public restrooms because police forces and leadership did not accept or make room for their growing numbers in the ranks. These accounts pounded the aggregates into a firm roadbed for women to enter and succeed in the profession. Pressing political and leadership issues highlighted Ella Bully-Cumming's rise from entry to her appointment as Chief of Police in Detroit by a corrupt newly elected Mayor Kilpatrick. And, Cathy Lanier's surprising selection as Washington D.C.'s first woman police chief. Now, that road is paved although still not smooth. The direction is as clear yet as unpredictable as a police officer's daily beat - you just don't know what is going to happen next. This cultural history demonstrates women from all walks of life and all ages have surpassed cultural challenges and are prepared to succeed.
Allan Duffin writes with a vivid, broad lexicon making the history leap from the pages and compelling to read. A History in Blue... is the real life events behind glitzy dramas like Law and Order, Policewoman, Cagney and Lacey or Saving Grace and The Closer. The book is an interesting account written by a man yet seemingly covers every cultural aspect women faced with emotion and professional restraint while maintaining historical relevance. A possible woman authorship shortcoming is overcome with respect to documenting situations, actions, and results in a historical context. A man's authorship adds dimension to the women's history by capturing interviews in women's words along with research while realizing men's complicit and implicit behavior and implications to both women and men. It is more captivating than fabricated scripts from television and movies. The subjects and stories are real, yet told with more pitch and range than the monotone accounts on Cops. Women and men readers who lived through many of the periods recounted in History in Blue... can easily identify local and national historical events like the Los Angeles Rodney King riots and 9/11 seeded through the history like landmarks along a journey.
A History in Blue... is fast easy read. It is as entertaining as it is referent, spotted with humor as well as tragedy. It is a reference for all leadership, management, and social studies, and a reference for all police officers. Allan Duffin succeeded recounting a cultural history women wrote to become law enforcement professionals.