Denver greets international female police

By Mike McPhee
The Denver Post

DENVER Some 600 female police officers from 22 countries came into Denver on Sunday for the 45th annual convention of the International Association of Women Police.

The convention, at the Adam's Mark Hotel downtown, runs through Thursday night.

Female officers wearing dress uniforms of unimaginable variety from cowboy hats to African garb to the Canadian Mounties' broad-brimmed hats - gathered in Civic Center for the official welcoming and lunch.

Denver's police and political leaders welcomed the officers, with Mayor John Hickenlooper promising that every tax dollar they spend this week will be applied to public safety in Denver.

Officer Kathy Caldwell, 47, of the Chicago Police Department said she came to the convention for education, networking and to understand why the "glass ceiling" exists for women's promotions.

"It's still a man's world, the good-ol'-boy connections," said Caldwell, who was attending with her friend Laurie Hickman, a retired sergeant for the Chicago PD.

Heather Coogan, Colorado's only female police chief, said she believes the glass ceiling is being shattered.

"It's only a matter of time before women rise to the top. It wasn't until the mid-'70s that many women did police work," said Coogan, who became Littleton's chief of police three months ago after working 24 years in the Denver Police Department and five years at the Auraria campus. "I don't think the gender issues, and even the racial issues, exist today the way they did in the '70s."

Jane Townsley, a chief inspector with the British Transport Police, the Great Britain's national police force, said the women's association has made great strides in minimizing the gender issues in the somewhat macho world of policing.

"It's no longer women against men; it's more about understanding the differences between the two," said Townsley, who was in Denver with her sister, Helen Rawlings, a constable with Sussex Police.

"It's about women having the opportunity to reach their full potential, which doesn't mean higher rank. For example, a woman can be the best dog handler in a department if allowed to do her best work."

Townsley, who investigated the recent terrorist bombings in London and the 1999 train crash, has worked in many parts of the globe for the United Nations and has seen how different cultures treat women.

"In India, if a woman becomes a police officer, she might see her family cross the street to avoid her," she said.

Copyright 2007 The Denver Post

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