I desperately tried to keep from screaming.
Bathed in a swirl of flashing red lights bouncing crazily off darkened buildings, I numbly watched as grim-faced paramedics slowly rolled a stretcher away. The patient’s body was covered by a sheet.
“I knew this would happen,” Detective Mackey stood nearby, his voice dripping with contempt. “I’ve always said there’s no place for women in police work . . . and you proved me right.”
The paramedics halted at the rear of the ambulance. As they lifted the stretcher, the sheet slipped just enough to reveal the dead man’s left arm. A blue sleeve bore sergeant’s stripes.
The ambulance moved silently away. No sirens. No flashing lights. The patient would be listed as D.O.A. A throbbing pain gripped my temples.
I graduated high school in 1967. Some of my friends got married - some went to college - I went to the police academy during one of the most turbulent periods in American history. College protestors and street demonstrators raised the call for civil rights and ending war in Vietnam. Cities were burned and looted. Tensions boiled to the forefront. Led by uncertainty and fear, many otherwise law-abiding people turned violent.
It was a dangerous time to be a cop, especially for a woman.
I naively thought the criminals would always be found on the mean streets. In the beginning, I was proud to be among the ranks of a thin blue line sworn to enforce the law. Little did I know that my worst enemy also wore the same uniform.
My training officer, Sgt. Bennett, was a tough, burly ex-Marine with an axe to grind.
“Women cops are taking jobs away from men with families to feed,” Bennett declared as I drove the squad car. “Sweetheart, this is men’s work . . . go home and bake cookies for your husband.”
Many male officers shared Bennett’s opinion and were involved in cruel hazing of female officers. Calls for backup went ignored, and several women suffered severe injuries. The brass only paid lip service, failing to keep the promise of equal treatment. Some women simply gave up and quit. I often longed to quit, but my father’s words kept me going, “The measure of a person is found in performance of duty despite the presence of pressure.”
Bennett sneered. “I doubt you weigh more than a hundred pounds, soaking wet. You’re wasting your time and mine. None of the guys want a female patrol partner. One of these days you’ll get another cop killed . . . I just hope it isn’t me.”
“I’m confused, Bennett. I thought we were on the same side. The streets are bad enough without cops fighting each other.”
“You prove you really don’t know the score.” He laughed with contempt.
I bit my tongue, trying to control my reactions, reminding myself he was only trying to get rid of me.
During our patrols, Sgt. Bennett stopped and talked to street people. I thought he was gathering information or recruiting snitches, but questions flooded my mind when I saw him exchanging envelopes.
One evening, I grabbed an envelope from him. In rage, he pulled his gun. “You’ve crossed the line, girl. Give it back, or else.”
I drew my own service revolver. “You’re taking graft, Bennett. It’s illegal and you know it.”
He laughed cruelly. “I know you won’t shoot me! You don’t have the guts! I warned you that one day you’d get some cop killed . . . little did you know it would be you!”
As he leveled his gun at me, I quickly fired. He staggered and fell, his chest covered in blood.
I stumbled back to the squad car and screamed into the radio, “Officer down! Officer down!” As I waited for help to arrive, my trembling hands tore open the envelope. It contained $500.
Detective Mackey, the first to arrive, raged in fury. “You killed one of the best guys on the force!”
“Mackey, he was crooked!”
Before I realized what was happening, Mackey turned and began altering the scene. I tried to stop him, but he pushed me away, smiling with satisfaction. “I’ve fixed things so it’ll come back on you. Maybe now the brass will get rid of women cops, once and for all.”
As his words echoed away, the ambulance pulled up. My service revolver slipped from my hand to the grimy street. There was nothing I could do.
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