Asserts local cops are still actively hostile to women in the ranks
by Benedict Cosgrove

"Do you know why doctors spank babies when they're born? To
knock the dicks off the stupid ones."

For Judy Stevenson, a former BART police officer[1], much of what
passed for humor among her male colleagues barely masked an ugly,
pervasive reality. "Most of the jokes I heard from male cops --
that one about spanking, for instance -- were not clever, or a
way of releiving tension, or even humorous," Stevenson says.
"The jokes were just vicious put-downs of women. Period."

Stevenson, who retired six months ago after ten years with the
BART police, will graduate this May from U.C. Berkeley with a
degree in anthropology. She has collected scores of police jokes
in her senior honors thesis, "Sexist Jokes Within the World of
Law Enforcement: A Feminist Perspective." "These jokes were and
are a clear manifestation of sexual harrassment," argues
Stevenson in her thesis. "[Sexist jokes] are a tool to express
the disdain men hold for women who dare invade their world. They
reflect women's reality in the ranks of law enforcement."

When she was a cop, Stevenson says she laughed and rolled her
eyes at jokes that became increasingly difficult to view as
simply healthy, stress-relieving banter. Today, the 43-year-old
mother of two sees her tacit acceptance of sexist "humor" in the
past as indicative of a larger problem. "I was so hungry for
acceptance from these men in uniform and their system," Stevenson
admits in her thesis paper, "that I overlooked their displays of


For the next ten years, seven of which were spent as a patrol
officer, Judy Stevenson listened to male officers tell jokes
that, as she put it in her thesis, enabled men "to define
themselves as males in control of themselves and their jobs.
They place women firmly below them by routinely describing the
subjects as dirty, ugly, and/or stupid." Today, Stevenson says
she ignored "the mean-spirited displays of crude humor" out of
fear of being labeled uptight or, worse yet, a feminist. [...]

"Mary", a female officer in an East Bay police department, who
spoke only on condition that neither her real name nor the city
in which she works be identified, believes that even with
rigorous sexual harrassment policies[2], "It just can't get much
worse than it is now. I've been called a worthless bitch to my
face," she says. "The best you can hope for is to be tolerated.
It's almost too cliche, but when I first started, I was labeled a
lesbian because I wasn't married and didn't date male cops.
That's how it is. Either you'r egay, or you're doing everybody,
or you're the good little girl who never complains."

Rose Melendez, special assistant to San Francisco's Chief of
Police[3], maintains that circumstances have improved. "Our
sexual harrassment guidelines seem to be working," Melendez says.
"The cops know the policy's there, and that they'll be held

Melendez, who was among the first group of sixty women to join
the force in 1975, remembers how it was: "When I and the other
women first came in, the atmosphere was brutal, even sadistic.
The physical training, of course, was difficult, with a lot of
women getting hurt during hand-to-hand training. [...] We were
told, outright, that we were not wanted," Melendez says. "We
really were concerned with just trying to stay alive."


[1] BART is the Bay Area Rapid Transit District -- an electric train system.
It has its own police force to make passengers feel safe on the trains and in
the stations and their parking lots, which can be dangerous at night. (There
was a notorous rape/murder or something like that in one of those lots not
long ago.) It has 15 female officers and 138 male ones. This police force is
currently in a lot of public hot water following an incident in which a BART
cop shot a young black male in the back of the head with a shotgun, killing
him instantly, just for walking away and not cooperating with questions about
an alleged theft of a walkman. The other young black male with him was
subsequently thrown in the slammer despite a total lack of evidence that he'd
done anything wrong, and the police force is of course stonewalling against
any efforts to put some accountability in place for situations like this.

[2] The BART police force apparently has a solid official policy against
sexual harrassment, with sensitivity training and everything.

[3] Currently the S.F. chief of police is Anthony Ribera, who was recently
accused of harrassment himself, as you may recall.