Women have a long and honorable history of service in the Cleveland Police Department. That service began in 1893 when the Chief Henry Hoehn established the Police Matron’s Service. The department hired Harriet Garfield and Emma Essinger to take care of the female prisoners in the jail at the “Old Central Station” on Champlain Street. These two women were the first female officers in the department.
The Police Matron’s provided invaluable service to the department and their charges. The 1936 photo above shows CPD Matrons Irene Moran, Alice Weber, Barbara Warsicek and Frances Gahan. Their tradition of service continues today, carried on by the female officers of the CPD Correctional Guard Service.
In 1911 Mrs. Rose Constant was the first female appointed as a police officer. She was a Sanitation Inspector, did not carry a firearm and had only limited arrest powers, but she was a CPD officer.
In 1923, former Chief of Police and then Mayor of the City of Cleveland, Fred Kohler ordered a special Civil Service Test be administered with the intention of appointing four women to the Cleveland Police Department. On April 1, 1924 the Cleveland Police Department Women’s Bureau was created. Mrs. Dorothy Doan Henry, a trained social worker, was appointed as the Captain of the Women’s Bureau in 1925.
The first officer hired was Elizabeth Metzger. Emma Schuller and Francis Gratz were appointed soon after. The Women’s Bureau reached its full strength of 14-officers in 1926.
From the 1920s until the 1970s when the Women’s Bureau had an authorized strength of 50-officers the CPD women provided services to Cleveland’s, women and children. The Women’s Bureau’s recruiting brochure from the 1920 sums up their duties: “The primary function of a police woman is to deal with all cases in which women or children are involved either as offenders or victims of offenses. Crimes by or against females, irrespective of age and boys up to the age of 12, should be the special responsibility of the policewomen. They should discover, investigate, and correct anti-social circumstances and conditions in individual cases, and in the community, deal socially and legally with all delinquent women and children, give or secure social treatment calculated to result in reform, supplement the work of police men in securing evidence and convictions in special cases that will aid in correcting evil conditions.”
In 1972, Officer Jean Clayton and a colleague filed a Sex Discrimination suite against the Cleveland Police Department and the City of Cleveland. The gist of the case was the ‘separate but equal’ policy of the department and its refusal to assign women to street patrol or promote them with the rest of the police force. Ms. Clayton won her suit. As a result, in 1973 the Woman’s Bureau was disbanded and the female officers of the Bureau were assigned to duties within the department. A follow-on suit, accusing the City of Cleveland with non-compliance with the original suit and failure by the City to hire more female officers was also won in Federal Court.
After the court ordered disbanding of the Women’s Bureau, its officers were assigned to duties, largely in an administrative or investigative capacity. The successful prosecution of the second suit forced the city and the department to assign women to street patrol duties alongside their male fellows. The transition was not without pain. There was considerable friction from the male officers and a loud protest from their wives and girl friends, but these were eventually worked out.
Another milestone in the history of women in the Cleveland Police Department was set in 2001 when Mayor Michael R. White appointed Commander Mary Bounds as Chief of Cleveland Police. Chief Bounds served until the appointment of Chief Edward Lohn by Mayor Jane Campbell in 2002.
Today female officers are simply “Patrol Officers.” Women have been assigned to every unit and special unit within the department.
Article written by Mazie Adams, Executive Director of the Cleveland Police Historical Society & Museum, 2020