David Hench Staff Writer March 12, 2001 Monday, Final Edition Copyright 2001 Blethen Maine Newspapers, Inc. Portland Press Herald March 12, 2001 Monday, Final Edition
(PORTLAND, Maine) --Twenty-five years ago, Judy Ridge was a clerk in the police department - as close to real police work as women typically came back then.
Friday, Ridge was promoted to lieutenant, the first woman in the department's history to achieve that rank.
"There's a barrier, that women have not attained a high rank of leadership in the department," Police Chief Michael Chitwood said. "Judy has broken down that barrier. She is now a commander and she will be assigned to command probably the busiest shift in the department."
Ridge will take over for Lt. Edward Guevin, who retired recently after 28 years with the department.
Ridge has been serving as a sergeant in the department's community policing division. She made sergeant four years ago and led a group of plainclothes officers for the Tactical Enforcement Unit, cracking down on prostitution and illegal gambling. She also has worked in the department's criminal investigation division, where she developed a program to track juvenile habitual offenders and worked undercover with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency.
From a pool of 27 sergeants, Ridge was chosen to be one of the department's seven lieutenants.
Gary Hutcheson, the Officer of the Year for 2000, was promoted to sergeant to fill that vacancy.
Ridge will now oversee a 14-person patrol team covering the city from midafternoon to midnight. Once the department's top brass leave at the end of the workday, the shift commander is ultimately responsible for the public safety of the city.
Ridge says she expects she will be received like any new lieutenant, as people watch to see how she handles the job and as officers adjust to her management style. But she also recognizes that the promotion has special significance for women who are employed by the department or considering police work as a career.
"This says to them, 'We can do it,' " so long as you are committed and put in the work, she said.
Chitwood says Ridge is a hard worker with broad experience in the department
"She's a police officer, and she's a professional, with a tremendous amount of experience," he said.
Detective Cheryl Holmes has worked extensively as Ridge's partner when the two worked undercover in drug and prostitution investigations.
"It's history in the making," Holmes said of Ridge's promotion. "It's been a long struggle for women in this field. It's getting better."
Her promotion coincides with an overall increase in the number of women in the department. Portland now has 20 female officers among its 160-member force.
Sgt. Janine Roberts, the department's first female sergeant, says this was the first time women had positioned themselves for advancement into a command position. Officers must gain experience as sergeants before they can take the test to become a lieutenant.
"As far as having females in leadership and administrative positions in the department, it's all blue to me as far as I'm concerned," Roberts said. "I'm sure she'll do a fine job, like the men before her and those of us to come afterward."
Department promotions are based on a person's score on the promotions exam, seniority and work experience.
Ridge is not related to two other Ridges in the department, Deputy Chief William Ridge and Lt. Robert Ridge.