Part 2 - The Beginnings of Change 1940 - 1975
The painstakingly slow rate at which women were recruited into the WA Police Force was the most significant factor in the decades which followed. From six women in 1924, it wasn’t until 1960 that this number had reached 12, and by 1970 – despite 82 women police officers having been employed in total, only 27 were currently serving as a result of attrition. More often than not this was as a result of the requirement for women to resign upon getting married.
What was significant during this period was the promotion of women, with Ethel Scott being made up to sergeant in 1946 and appointed as the Officer-in-Charge of the Women Police Unit. This was acclaimed by all ranks as timely and well deserved.
Sgt Scott went on to become the first WA female officer to reach the rank of inspector in 1967, was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal in 1970, and became a superintendent in 1971. A second woman, Wilma Currie, also reached the rank of inspector in 1971 due to ‘the high quality of her work’. By the early 1970s, the same rules and promotion principles were said to apply to men and women. Women sat the same exams and were identified by the same system of identification numbers.
In the late 60s and early 70s the agency was increasingly seeing the potential benefits of having a female officer attend the scene of a serious incident whenever a female victim was involved. Our retired women who experienced this era saw two sides to the practice. On one hand, there was a rather large invasion of privacy. In an era before mobile phones, female officers on-call were expected to provide the duty-sergeant with a full list of their whereabouts while off-duty in case they needed to be collected during their time-off and taken to a scene! However, on the other hand, there was an opportunity to be working on the front line, earning the respect of male colleagues and making a difference to the lives of victims.
References (for all parts of Our stories):
(i) Into the Blue – A Celebration of 80 years for Women in Policing in Western Australia. The Centre for Police Research, Edith Cowan University (1998)
(ii) The Journal for Woman and Policing Issue No.35 Spring 2014 pp 14-17
(iii) WA Police Force Strategic Human Resources – various.
(iv) The WA Police Force Commemorative Book – (digital copy)
(v) Anecdotal accounts obtained during interviews with retired WA Police Force women.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general information purposes only. While every effort has been made to verify all details are historically accurate, the WA Police Force does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information contained.