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Old 12-13-2009, 8:37 PM
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masameet masameet is offline
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Default Another CHP story -- and this is one about women

And what a terrific read it is too.
More and more CHP commanders are women

By Gary Richards
Posted: 12/12/2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Updated: 12/13/2009 0706 PM PST

Every morning as Cathy Wayne strolls down a hallway at the California Highway Patrol headquarters in San Jose, she eyes the 15 black and white photographs lining one wall.

They are the 14 men who have served as captains of the South Bay division since 1929 and the lone woman, Capt. Cathy Wayne.

"This is the best moment," said Wayne, 51, "walking past pictures of our past commanders and now my picture is on that wall. I'm part of history. Wow."

She's part of history and part of a trend. Although fewer than 8 percent of the 7,441 uniformed CHP officers are women, 15 percent have risen to the rank of captain. It may be rare for a motorist to be stopped by a female trooper, but more and more women are serving as commanders, especially in the Bay Area.

In addition to Wayne, Capt. Christina Manriquez leads the Aptos office, and assistant chief Bridget Lott headed the Redwood City division until a few months ago. Now, she is at the regional headquarters in Vallejo, where the Bay Area-wide chief is Teresa Becher, the first woman to be a division commander in the CHP's 80-year history.

And of the 57 commanders at state offices in Sacramento, 17 are women.

Women have come a long way in the CHP since 1974, when female officers first joined the force in a two-year experiment to see whether they were tough enough for a tough job. Naysayers were many, and CHP Sgt. Harry Larson had his doubts. How could a small woman like the 5-foot Lott or the 5-foot-3 Wayne handle police tasks that are difficult for a burly 6-foot guy?

"There was a mild state of panic and hysteria," said Larson, who retired in 1999 after 32 years with the CHP, recalling that a list was circulated with reasons women shouldn't be Highway Patrol officers: They couldn't shoot shotguns, they might be assaulted if overcome by a motorist, they weren't assertive enough.

"But as it turned out," Larson said, "the world did not stop spinning around when women got on the force, which was a shock to some of us macho guys."

Penny Harrington, a law enforcement consultant and former police chief in Portland, Ore., says, "It's unusual in state police organizations to have the kind of climate that fosters having women at the top. I'm very impressed."

Being a CHP officer presents one challenge that police in local agencies don't face the likelihood of being assigned to areas far from home, especially for officers seeking promotion.

For a woman trying to raise a family, "it's extremely difficult," Harrington said. "Either you are uprooting kids or living apart from them. You really need support from family.

"If you are with a city department, there's a much better chance of staying put. Not at the Highway Patrol."

Wayne, Lott and Manriquez came to the CHP for similar reasons. Each felt stymied in other jobs. They enjoyed working outside and relished the chance to advance in a police agency they respected.

Wayne grew up on the streets of Oakland and as a young girl was enthralled with cop shows on TV. Manriquez was raised in Sacramento, the daughter of a prison guard. Lott grew up in Southern California and started as a park ranger before Proposition 13 cuts forced her to look for another job. That and a love of motorcycles turned her to the CHP.

If there were snubs along the way, there were also men who became loyal partners and helped out in ways that were sometimes surprising.

When Wayne returned from maternity leave, her CHP pants no longer fit, and she had to be in uniform to take a physical test. A male officer lent her his pants.

When Manriquez told a male officer she wanted to be a captain, he laughed but then he became a mentor.

"Several women have had difficult experiences," said Lott. "But for the most part, men have embraced us."

For Manriquez, it was tough love from her male counterparts that helped keep her career going after a harrowing incident in 1983, just a year after she joined the CHP.

She was on patrol in Southern California when a driver ran a red light. Something bothered her about the motorist, and she called for backup. As she issued the driver a ticket, he attacked her, shooting her in the hand and face. He fled when he heard the sirens of approaching patrol vehicles.

A few months later, she had recovered from her injuries and was back on the road. The CHP had no trauma counselors then, just fellow officers who expected her to return.

"Maybe that was a good thing, having someone say, 'Hey, get back out there,' " she said.

"I knew I wanted to go back. I didn't want to allow that situation to control my decision to go back to work."

No woman has yet served as CHP commissioner, the top boss, and it won't be one of these three, as all expect to retire in the near future after more than two decades on the force.

But they've helped pave the way for other women. And they've made believers out of men such as Larson.

"Women, I think, can do better in police work then men as a rule," he said. "They tend to negotiate longer and negotiate better. A woman may talk to a potentially violent guy for 10 minutes and calm everything down, where a man may not."

And the hysteria over hiring women in the '70s? Seems silly now, said Larson:

"They've earned their positions."

"Let those find fault whose wit's so very small,
They've need to show that they can think at all;
Errors, like straws, upon the surface flow;
He who would search for pearls, must dive below." -- John Dryden
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Old 12-13-2009, 8:54 PM
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ivanimal ivanimal is offline
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Great stories. Those are some truly inspirational women.
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Old 12-23-2009, 1:33 PM
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ddindetroit ddindetroit is offline
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Default That's a nice piece

That's a nice piece.

Thanks for the post.

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Old 12-23-2009, 2:15 PM
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Women make up 7% of the population of CHP but 15% of the captains? That sounds like Affirmative Action to me. Notice how many are in the Bay Area, where chiefs of everything are female?
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Old 12-23-2009, 9:54 PM
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trendar5 trendar5 is offline
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In fairness, I just found out that the San Jose office is the largest single office in the State. I was surprised too....I thought L.A. etc, but they have more smaller offices. This might be part of the reason for so many female Captains etc. However, if you look at the Bay Area, there are quite a few Police Chiefs who are women, so you might be right! We know who deserves the promotions, and those who got them for fear of a lawsuit.
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Old 01-03-2010, 9:17 AM
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