This fresh-faced cadet was only one of twelve women IN TOTAL to be assigned as patrol officers with the Dallas Police Department in 1974.
A thirty plus-year veteran, Detective Hay saw just about everything there was to see working in a field dominated by Alpha males, including harassment, bullying, and intimidation. She’d had a sergeant order another rookie to put her in a choke hold during defense training because he’d been instructed to “get rid of her”; another sergeant told her outright that she should be home, barefoot and pregnant, and not taking up the positions meant for men; fellow officers once taunted a mean drunk while she was arresting him so they could watch the resulting punch-up with a female cop. She managed to overpower the man, dragging him into a holding cell. Her nickname became Viking because of her strength and height.
It was argued at the time, and still is in many professions, that there was nothing done to her that hadn’t been done to “the guys.” The ribbing, the kidding, the name-calling, which is a part of every frat house and boys club in America. But the prevailing darker truth was that the sexual harassment and blackmail, which was a constant threat to job security, was held over the female officers’ heads. On her first week of duty during roll call an officer asked, loudly, if she was a virgin. She quipped that he’d never find out, but she said it was a rude awakening, and set the overall tone for her early career.
There other practical difficulties: hair had to be as short as the men’s, uniforms and vests cut and designed for a man’s body (try going to the bathroom quickly when you have to take off your underbelt, your “sam brown”, holding your gun holster, ammo pouches, and handcuff case, etc., 4 belt keepers that held the two belts together, undo a side zipper, and pull the entire trousers down around your ankles).
There were some humorous occasions. Once, when she had volunteered to sit as an honor guard in a funeral home for a deceased officer, a fellow cop brought her something to eat, telling her where she could go in the building to get a soda. Then he left. When Officer Hay followed his instructions to where she’d been told the soda machine was, she found herself in the embalming room, with a lot of other bodies. A few minutes later, she heard what sounded like organ music coming from another room. As far as she knew, she was the only one left (alive) at the funeral home. Her nerves on fire, she went searching for the source of the eerie sounds, only to find the officer she’d thought had left gleefully playing organ music pre-recorded for funerals.
For over a decade she worked as a trainer for other officers and in the traffic division as an accident investigator for all the major and fatality accidents for the entire city. She came to be well-regarded by the officers “on the scene”, but resented by the other A&I officers for her attention to detail in her reports.
In 1990, Officer Hay became Detective Hay, assigned to her home station of Northwest Division. She counted herself fortunate to be trained by a female detective who was supportive, having coming up the ranks facing many of the same difficulties. The most difficult part of her job, however, proved to be balancing her detective work with raising her son as a single mom. She was criticized by her male officers for taking any time off for doctor’s visits or school related events, until she pointed out to them that they had stay-at-home wives taking care of their own kids.
When I asked Detective Hay what her motto might have been for her career, she responded, “I have always worked with the attitude that I had to do the job twice as good as the men to be thought of as half as good.”
Many women know exactly how she feels.