The story of Patricia A. Fogerson’s 25-year career with the Los Angeles Police Department is the chronicle of a delicate and somewhat confusing effort to negotiate a place in the police fraternity--where the pressures to conform were enormous and neither the men nor the women were quite sure how to act.
She started with the department in 1969, when a woman’s only escape from desk work was in juvenile. She went on to become the first female drill instructor at the Police Academy in the mid ‘80s and retired last week as a detective in the bunco-forgery division.
She went through the academy twice, the second time to gain promotions after legal action forced the department to put women in the field. The instructors didn’t bother to assume even a veneer of welcome--and one, she says, even tried to sabotage her scores.
Fogerson matter of factly recalls how, during a physical aptitude exam, the instructor deliberately switched her running time with that of another woman who didn’t perform as well. Another instructor lectured the class about how women just didn’t have the guts and strength to be police officers. Female cops would, he assured the recruits, prove fatal to their male partners.
Only a few years before, Police Chief Ed Davis had declared, “When the L.A. Rams hire . . . women tackles, then I’ll put women in police cars.”
Women tried to cope. “You just kept your mouth shut and kept going and did the best you could,” Fogerson said. In the patrol car, some of her early partners didn’t know whether to treat her like a sister, a date or a colleague. One male officer insisted on opening the door for her and buying her dinner. Another officer, with whom she worked for only one day, confided in her about a longtime extramarital affair.
“He was pouring his heart out to me. To this day I don’t know his name,” Fogerson says, still amazed.
Then there was the partner who introduced her to his wife, saying, “This is what I’m working with.”
To get along, Fogerson became one of the guys. She cracked jokes about her flat chest, showed up at roll call smoking a cigar and once ripped open her shirt to reveal a T-shirt bearing the image of two strategically placed fried eggs.
When she was working in the Hollywood Division in the early ‘80s, a supervisor would regularly grab her and force her head into his lap. “I didn’t even realize that was sexual harassment. I didn’t feel offended,” said Fogerson, who developed neck problems as a result of the routine. “It was always funny, ‘Ha, Ha.’
“I acquiesced,” she said, adding that she now believes the behavior was inappropriate. “Somewhere along the line, I got educated. . . . Looking back on it, psychologically I probably did it to be accepted.
“Where does sex harassment start?” Fogerson asked. “Where do you draw the line?”
Generally, Fogerson says women are now accepted and treated well in the department. Indeed, she complains that they are favored at the academy, where she says they are given more chances than men.
At the same time, she acknowledges that sexual harassment of female officers can be found in every division in the department--and is in some sense condoned because supervisors don’t take adequate steps to stop it.
“The Police Department is still a man’s world, and if you go in there and don’t believe that, you don’t see the big picture.”