(INDIANAPOLIS) – 100 years ago this summer, the Indianapolis Police Department made history.
With police ranks depleted by World War One, Indy created a separate branch within the police department for its first 14 policewomen. They focused on low-level crimes like shoplifting and drunkenness — they didn’t even get to carry guns until 1922, and then had to buy their own.
50 years later, Indy made history again, becoming the first city to put women on the same patrols as men. But Deputy Chief Valerie Cunningham says the women had to demand the right to do the same work, and says for the next decade, officers went out of their way to make policewomen uncomfortable:
Today, about one-eighth of Indy’s officers are women — Cunningham herself was acting chief for 11 days last year. She says by the time she joined the force in 1992, she never experienced any bias. She praises those first officers as trailblazers. She says she’d like to see more women on the force, but says while discrimination is no longer an obstacle, a lack of interest among women in law enforcement as a career is.
The Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library is hosting an exhibit through September 21 on IMPD women, featuring uniforms, gun belts, handcuffs, and acceptance letters.
Badges and hat of Liz Robinson, who in 1968 was one of two IMPD policewomen who became the first in the U.S. to work the same patrol duties as male officers. (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)