CWRU Links
Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

WOMEN'S BUREAU OF THE CLEVELAND POLICE DEPT.

WOMEN'S BUREAU OF THE CLEVELAND POLICE DEPT.

The WOMEN'S BUREAU OF THE CLEVELAND POLICE DEPT. (CPD) provided the only police work open to women for nearly 50 years, although the CPD had employed women as jail matrons since 1893. The first woman police officer was appointed in 1923 after a campaign by the WOMEN'S CITY CLUB and prompting by city councilperson MARIE REMINGTON WING, and the bureau was organized the following year. Many of the first women hired were former teachers or social workers who functioned as investigators on all police cases in which women or children were involved as either victims or offenders. By 1932 the bureau had 15 policewomen: a captain, a sergeant, and 13 officers to assist in a wide variety of duties, e.g., guarding women prisoners and witnesses, transporting prisoners, inspecting dance halls, and assisting the welfare department with home investigations.

The first bureau chief was Dorothy Doan Henry, succeeded by Alpha Larsen, then Hazel Witt, who served as bureau captain from 1934-65. During her tenure, women entered the police academy for the first time. In 1965 Wilma Neubecker, the first woman to rise completely through the ranks and be promoted to captain, was placed in command. In the 1970s women officers actively sought equality with their male counterparts and in 1971 were given the right to carry firearms. Responding to litigation instituted by the WOMEN'S LAW FUND, the quota ordinance limiting the number of women officers to 50 was repealed in 1973--the same year women patrol officers were first permitted in zone cars. In 1975 the bureau was disbanded and its members absorbed into other units.