Vol. 8 No. 5 (May 1998) pp. 253-255.

POLICING WOMEN: THE SEXUAL POLITICS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND THE LAPD by Janis Appier. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998. 227 pp. Cloth $59.95.
ISBN 1-56639-560-7.

Reviewed by Cassia C. Spohn, Department of Criminal Justice, University of Nebraska at Omaha. Email: cspohn@FA-CPACS.UNOMAHA.EDU.

In this engaging examination of the history of women in law enforcement, Janis Appier, assistant professor of history at Ohio State University, recounts the struggles of pioneer policewomen to "redefine police work as a job a woman could do as well as, if not better than, a man" (p. 1). Appier explains how the maternalist ideals of women reformers during the Progressive Era influenced the movement to appoint women as police officers and describes the ways in which these ideals defined--and, in fact, limited--the role of women in policing. Focusing on the pioneer policewomen in the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), which was the first department in the United States to appoint a female officer, Appier documents both the efforts of these women officers to construct a crime prevention model of police work and the resistance they encountered from a male-dominated police subculture. She concludes with a gender-linked analysis of the demise of the crime prevention model and the triumph of the male-centered crime control model.

Appier clearly rejects the "add women and stir" approach; she argues that the entry of women into police work should not be treated as a footnote to the history of the police but as a major event that transformed, at least temporarily, the nature of police work. Appier also contends that an understanding of "the history and legacy of pioneer policewomen" requires more than simply asking when, where, and how women first became police officers. It requires asking "how women's entry into police work affected the discourse and direction of police reform, how policewomen and their supporters contested male hegemony in police work, and how the police . . . incorporated gender into its operations and organization" (p. 2). Using arrest statistics, juvenile court records, newspaper accounts of crime, criminal justice, and politics at the turn of the century, and the personal papers of a number of the pioneer policewomen, Appier attempts to answer these more intriguing questions.

Policing Women consists of two parts. The first part documents the origins of the movement for women police in the late 19th Century, and discusses the gender-circumscribed roles played by the first generation of policewomen. The second part includes a detailed examination of pioneer policewomen in Los Angeles and an analysis of the factors that contributed to the demise of the female-centered crime prevention model of policing.

In describing the birth of the movement for women police, Appier provides a fascinating portrayal of the intersections among the social welfare reform movement, the juvenile court movement, and the sexual revolution of the early 20th Century. As she notes, in these contemporaneous movements middle-class women "used exalted definitions of womanhood and motherhood to claim new roles for themselves" (p. 11). To illustrate this, Appier describes the early history of the Chicago Woman's Club, which began as a literary and cultural study club in 1876 and then broadened its focus to campaign for a variety of criminal justice reforms affecting the treatment of women and children. Members of the club lobbied for the installation of female guards in police stations and jails, for improvements in the treatment of women and children within these institutions, and for the creation of a separate juvenile court system. Appier notes that the success of the Chicago Woman Club's efforts, which were duplicated in cities throughout the United States, fueled the crime prevention movement, with its emphasis on preventing women and children from becoming involved in crime and immorality, and led to increasingly vocal demands for the appointment of women police officers.

Appier attributes the growth of the movement for women police officers to several factors: the efforts of civic reformers to sever the ties between urban political machines and the police; pressure from women's groups to hire female officers to "enforce vice laws, identify bad social conditions, and . . . steer individual teenage girls and young women away from moral dangers" (p. 40); and women's work in the federal anti-vice program established during World War I to protect girls and young woman from sexual exploitation by men in uniform. She contends that, regardless of the particular local circumstances that led to the hiring of female officers, those who championed the appointment of women based their demands on ideologically conservative arguments emphasizing gender differences. They argued, in other words, that women possessed certain "feminine qualities" that made them better suited than men for crime prevention and for protecting the safety and morals of women and children. Rather than arguing that a woman could perform all of the duties of a police officer as well as a man (an argument that no doubt would have been rejected outright), proponents claimed that there were certain types of offenders who needed protection rather than discipline, certain types of duties that "required a woman's sympathetic touch" (p. 55). Appier contends that this approach, which was essential to overcoming resistance to the very idea of women police officers, led eventually to the transformation of policing "from an occupation that was presumed to be sex-specific to men, to an occupation with an array of gender-linked functions" (p. 55).

In the second section of POLICING WOMEN, Appier focuses on the first generation of policewomen assigned to the Los Angeles Police Department. She attempts to "provide a window into the world of women police during the 1910s and 1920s" (p. 73) by examining the life and work of Aletha Gilbert, who headed the City Mother's Bureau of Los Angeles from 1914 through 1929, and by analyzing the "double lives" led by women officers who served the LAPD Juvenile Bureau. She also discusses the role of the second generation of female officers, who joined the LAPD from 1930 to 1950, in the demise of the crime prevention model of policing.

Appier's discussion of the birth and development of the City Mother's Bureau is a fascinating portrayal of the interconnections among politics and sexual mores at the turn of the century. Established in 1914 as a counseling agency for "wayward" (i.e., sexually active) teenage girls and their mothers, the City Mother's Bureau "exemplified the female-gendered character of social-welfare policing envisioned by pioneer policewomen and their advocates" (p. 86). The goal of the bureau, according to Aletha Gilbert, the first City Mother, was to "save" girls by preventing them from engaging in premarital sex, protecting them from venereal disease, and protecting them from sexual exploitation and white slavery. To this end, the city mothers counseled young girls about the dangers of premarital sex, provided sex education, inspected commercial dance halls and other "dangerous" places of amusement, and sponsored "proper and well chaperoned" municipal dances. Ultimately, according to Appier, the city mother's goal was to keep young girls out of the juvenile justice system.

Chapter Four of Policing Women is an analysis of the "double lives" of pioneer policewomen in the LAPD Juvenile Bureau. Appier explores the ways in which the conflicting themes of discipline and protection affected the work of these early female officers. Focusing on sexual delinquency cases, she demonstrates that policewomen often were torn between their personal beliefs that "they could prevent crime and lessen the sexual vulnerability of women and girls through the noncoercive methods of social casework" (p. 107) and the realization that arrest or petition to juvenile court often were the only realistic solutions. Lacking official data (most of the LAPD records for this time period were destroyed), Appier uses case studies to illustrate these tensions between "social adjustment" and arrest and to demonstrate the class and race biases inherent in the Juvenile Bureau's crime prevention model of policing.

Appier concludes her examination of women in policing with a rather brief discussion of the collapse of the movement for women police and the death of the female-gendered crime prevention model. In a chapter aptly titled, "From City Mother to 'Sgt. Tits'," she traces the evolution of women in policing from the late 1920s through the 1940s. She also discusses the forces that coalesced to bring about the demise of the crime prevention model and the rise of the male-centered crime control model: the professionalization and medicalization of criminology; the exclusion of policewomen from the Los Angeles County Coordinating Council, organized in 1932 as a delinquency prevention agency, and from the LAPD's Predelinquent Detail; the hostility of LAPD police chiefs toward women officers; the erosion of social activism among middle-class women; and the focus on male (rather than female) sexual deviance during the sex-crime panic of the 1930s. Appier also attributes a good part of the "blame" for the defeats policewomen suffered during the 1930s to the second generation of policewomen, whom she characterizes as "both unable and unwilling to follow the lead of the pioneering generation" (p. 165). She notes that although the second generation of female officers sought assimilation into the male police organization by wearing uniforms, carrying guns, and distancing themselves from social work, they were never accepted as policemen's equals.

POLICING WOMEN will appeal to a diverse audience. It would be an excellent addition to courses on law enforcement, women and crime, women's studies, or women's history. Appier provides a comprehensive and carefully documented analysis of the early history of women in law enforcement that is enlivened with case studies of individual female officers and young female offenders. Writing in a feminist voice, Appier takes the reader on a fascinating historical journey that documents both the birth of the movement for women in policing and the social and political forces that coalesced to produce the movement.

Copyright 1998