Women have a long and honorable history of service in the Cleveland Police Department. That service began in 1893, with the creation of the Police Matron’s Service. Matrons worked in the women’s jails. Cleveland first female police officer Rose Constant, appointed in 1911, did not carry a fire arm and had limited arrest powers.
In 1924, the Cleveland Police Department created the Women’s Bureau. Over the next fifty years, officers in the Women’s Bureau worked with families, women and children involved in criminal activity or needing assistance. Members of the Women’s Bureau wore civilian clothing, could not drive zone cars and were not issued weapons. Policewomen’s badges and wreaths were smaller than the men’s and their badge numbers were in the 3000s.
In the 1950s, Cleveland’s policewomen advocated for uniforms like those worn by policewomen in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City. In the fall of 1956, the department tested possible choices. Chief Frank Story stated that the uniforms would include “a cap, a badge and probably a shoulder bag” and that the uniforms would be worn mostly for ceremonial occasions.
After some debate, policewomen received uniforms for the first time in 1957, which were a navy serge jacket and skirt, white blouse, white gloves, black string tie, girdle, pantyhose and hat. Policewomen Katherine Sutkow #3011 (#279) and Irene Neal #3028 (#200) debuted the uniforms at a reception for Ohio Governor William O’Neill. Policewomen’s badges and wreaths were smaller than the mens and their badge numbers were in the 3000s.
The Women’s Bureau was abolished in 1976 and women were fully incorporated into the police force. On March 17, 1978, the department stopped using the 3000 badge numbers and reassigned each female officer with a new badge, including those of Katherine Sutkow, Carol Guido and Esterlene Powers.
Artifacts, uniforms and equipment used by Katherine Sutkow, Carol Guido and Esterlene Powers are now on display at the Cleveland Police Museum. The museum is located in the Justice Center (1300 Ontario) and open on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10am – 2pm.