San Francisco salutes women police officers with ceremony

From rookies to retirees, San Francisco city leaders on Tuesday night honored the women of the San Francisco Police Department with a special ceremony.

Women have been part a part of the police department for about one hundred years. On Tuesday evening, City Hall was lit up to honor the women in blue.

Department brass along with family and friends came to pay tribute. Active and retired female police officers gathered on the steps of the rotunda to take group photos to mark the tough but worthwhile journey serving in the department.

"It's been 29 years and I've absolutely loved it," said Commander Ann Mannix, who is the only woman to have served in the department's SWAT unit.

Many share a love for the job and a gratitude to the women who blazed the trail starting in the early 1900s.

Their numbers were few then. They weren't always accepted. They wore skirts, not pants.

"They didn't go out on patrol and have radio cars," said Pamela Meeds Williams, a retired officer who said female officers didn't have lockers in the early years and were not treated the same as male officers.

It wasn't until 40 years ago in 1975, that women were allowed into the police academy and were considered to be full-fledged police officers

The change came after a federal discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of women and minorities.

67-year-old Arlene Drummer was in that first class.

"It was so very hard, but looking back, I made it," said Drummer.

She said at the time, she was on welfare. Her husband was in prison for robbery.

Becoming a police officer changed her life. Drummer says women offer a different approach to policing.

"It's about talking and communicating and that's what a lot of us did. We didn't have to pull our guns. We didn't have to take someone down. We knew how to communicate," said Drummer.

One officer told KTVU it is tough to police in this current anti-law enforcement climate, making it important to wear the badge proudly.

"Try to treat people fairly, respectfully, and change people's perspective about law enforcement today," said Officer Gayla Bunton, who's been in the department for eight years.

In 2004, Heather Fong became San Francisco's first female police chief. Vicki Hennessy is set to become the city's first female sheriff.