I just received this wonderful review of Women Warriors from a retired FBI agent. Enjoy:
By John Wills
My friend and former colleague John Wills has compiled a collection of personal and true stories of policewomen that was long overdue. John, like many of us is a complex individual and this is a side of him that I never contemplated. When I first met former Chicago cop Wills, it was in the FBI Academy gym where he was going through New FBI Agent training. Now, new agents don’t have much spare time, but John was into fitness big time (it saved his life numerous times) and in addition to the Bureau’s frequent defensive tactics sessions and physical challenges, he still had energy to spare and took it out on the weights in our extensively equipped weight room. He immediately impressed me as being more mature than the average agent aspirant and projected a friendly, but tough and don’t mess with me attitude, so his interest in honoring the distaff branch of law enforcement with a book surprised me. It is also interesting to note that the FBI recently celebrated 40 years of female agents on the job.
Before I wet your reading appetite with a hint of what is inside this books cover, I must tell you a short story. It was 1973 and the American Indian Movement’s (AIM) idea of commemorating the 1873 massacre of Sioux Indians on what is today the Pine Ridge Lakota Sioux reservation was to seize the town of Wounded Knee and take its residents hostage. The 200 or so “warriors” were heavily armed and almost destroyed the village before they left 71 days later. In their destructive insurrection they left one Indian dead and a US marshal paralyzed. My field office and hundreds of other agents responded and surrounded the town with road blocks and a loose nine mile perimeter. Exchanges of long-range fire were frequent, but usually short in duration. However, one night one of our road blocks was attacked and pinned down by a large number of insurgents while the other roadblocks listened helplessly as the gun battle progressed. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer and drove my Bucar (Bureau car) cross-country to assist. Someone back at the ivory HQ tower thought it would be a good idea to have the first two female agents make their investigative bones by sending them to South Dakota. One was a former nun and the other a former Marine captain. Like most knuckle draggers back then I had my doubts and prejudices about letting women into our formerly closed fraternity.
When I arrived at the roadblock it was still under attack and incoming rounds were snapping overhead and ricocheting off the armored personnel carrier (APC) blocking the cut in the road? Four agents were above the road on the crest of hill giving as good as they were getting with their M16s and launching hand-held illumination rounds, which fired up the surrounding dry prairie grasses. As I ran past the APC to join them I looked inside the vehicle and saw the former nun inside. I sprinted over to her and asked, “Joan are you okay?” She smiled back and simply replied”Go get em” and kept loading magazines for the boys. In that instant, I thought that maybe females can cut it after all and my ego based apprehensions began to waver.
In Women Warriors, you will have a front row seat on life and an all-inclusive menu of human emotions. Although they are present, the book goes deeper than just describing a bunch of shoot outs and touches on the personal lives of female law enforcement (LE) pioneers as well as the ”new breed” of police woman. While they help and sometimes heal, they may be suffering from the very things that they are trying to ameliorate. I particularly identified with the officer who lived in a dysfunctional household and whose father was violently abusive and brutal. Coming home one day from the department she walked in on a heated confrontation between her father and mother. When she tried to separate them her father attacked her and almost choked her to death. Propelled by the flashing recall of the pervious loss of a family member and not wanting it to happen again she finally broke free and ran up to her room to retrieve her off duty firearm. When her pursuing father reached the top of the stairs he was greeted by the barrel of her cocked revolver pointed point-blank at his head. Sadly, many officers have chapters in their lives that remain unresolved and may never be.
In less dramatic contrast, one lady cop describes her ordeals as a rookie and the jokes her training officer and others played on her. These jokes are part of the right of passage every new team member undergoes and although they are usually directed at people who are liked, your reactions are scrutinized to determine if you will fit in and compliment the group.
There is tragedy and blood throughout the book’s pages and contrary to what males learn growing up, girls can suck up the pain and injuries just like we attempt to do and stay in the fight to survive. Many of these women are single moms as well and have to balance work with raising a family while attending college to acquire a degree or to develop specialized skills her department needs. Frankly, even to jaded individuals some of the personal recollections in Women Warriors are literally unbelievable.
All levels of ‘hands on” law enforcement is covered as well as almost every professional aspect of the criminal justice system. You will find the stories not only of patrol officers, but investigators, dispatchers, chaplains and corrections. Dispatchers are one of the least respected and acknowledged group in the LE mosaic. We know that when one is deprived of a physical sense others become acute and takeover. I used to tell my SWAT agents that the “ears frequently aim the eyes” and you will frequently hear the threat before you see it. So it is with many gifted dispatchers who can “see” things with their super sensitive ears and recognize things not said on the other end of a 911 call. This sensory skill has saved many lives both civilian and police.
Although, as with anything there are exceptions, most lady cops acknowledge that men generally possess stronger physical attributes. On the other hand, women, because of their natural nurturing instincts appear to have the ability to negotiate and empathize with people and de-escalate situations before violence occurs. Treating people with respect regardless of their condition and convincing them that you want to help them seems to come easier for women to project.
Cops are action oriented and many are type “A” personalities eager to prove themselves to their comrades and themselves. This has often led to the “John Wayne / Jane Wayne” syndrome and sometimes it manifests itself among lady officers who want to be accepted and liked. And it can be dangerous when officers get into situations beyond their capabilities. I used to break in new SWAT candidates by telling them that a SWAT team is like platoon full of second lieutenants. All of them are potential leaders and as investigators or patrol officers lead a pretty independent professional existence. However, when they become part of a team, they must subjugate their own desires and objectives to that of the group. Women in general are better at following directions and carrying them out. Too many times on operations I have turned around in the crises site only to discover Agent Eager, who was supposed to be securing the perimeter standing behind me looking sheepish, because he violated his orders. His super ego motivated defense frequently was “When I heard the gunfire, I thought you needed help?” Women don’t do that and there are numerous examples in John’s book where rookie female police women were assigned support roles, only to have the action come to them.
In many cases, suspects made the mistake of taking chances with women officers that they wouldn’t ordinarily take with men only to learn the hard way that despite their gender are fully capable of running down the fleeing offenders and arresting them thus emphasizing the importance of physical fitness and courage which numerous stories in this book reflect.
In particular, one episode brought tears to my eyes. It involved an autistic child in medical distress that also had an abusive childhood. The officer accompanied the alone and distraught mother to the hospital. She had no family in the area and the lady cop empathized and stayed with her until neighbors arrived. But, it didn’t end there. Several months later the officer returned to the house to see how the child was doing. Certainly, the officer didn’t have to do that and the mother burst into tears of gratitude as she showed her photographs of her daughter’s recent kindergarten graduation. Cops care and always have a soft spot for kids in need.
This book is part training manual as the women reveal investigative techniques they and their colleagues employed in seminal cases. But, more significantly it apprises the public of the human side of enforcement where everyone involved became casualties to varying degrees and through the fascinating stories of adventure that movies are made should serve as a recruiting tool for the young contemplating careers in public service.
In conclusion, I must be candid with the reader. Like the author I am very busy with writing commitments and I intended to skim the book and give it quick review, but as I turned the pages I became engrossed and found the book difficult to put down and you will too. My compliments to John and the ladies in this compendium of life and death.