Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Different Shade of Blue

I just read Adam Eisenberg, A Different Shade of Blue: How Women Changed the Face of Police Work (HV8023 .E57 2009 at Good Reads).

The author (a graduate of the University of Washington School of Law who is now a court commissioner) got the idea for a book about female police officers when he was a prosecutor and met some women working in this field dominated by men. His book takes us back to the 1920s, when the Seattle Police Department hired its first women. It is enlivened by dozens of first-person accounts, starting with some women who were in the old Women's Bureau in the 1940s and 1950s. There are a wide range of vivid stories, starting with some by true-crime writer Ann Rule, who reminisces about her time in the Women's Bureau in the 1950s.

The interviews include a wide range of women -- different times on the force, different races, different sexual orientations.

Many of the stories concern the challenges of being among just a handful of women in a force filled with men. What uniform do you wear? Where do you shower? How do they treat you in the police academy? How do you establish trust with your coworkers? How do you deal with rumors? What do you say if your partner's wife says she doesn't feel safe with him having a female partner?

Sexual harassment has been a problem in the department for many women. And reporting it has often created worse problems, so many women have chosen to remain silent.

For more, check out Eisenberg's blog, Shades of Blue, where he posts news about women in police work, including some from around the world.

Ms. named this book one of its "Great Reads for Summer 2009." Nicely done, Adam!

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