They were the first women to serve as Sacramento police officers. Not everyone was welcoming

Flossie Crump, left, and Felicia Allen, who in 1974 were the two first female patrol officers sworn in to the Sacramento Police Department, are photographed in Sacramento’s Curtis Park neighborhood on Jan. 30.
Flossie Crump, left, and Felicia Allen, who in 1974 were the two first female patrol officers sworn in to the Sacramento Police Department, are photographed in Sacramento’s Curtis Park neighborhood on Jan. 30. rpench@sacbee.com

Flossie Crump was just a few months into her job as a patrol officer with the Sacramento Police Department when she faced one of the first tests of her resolve.

It was 1975, and Crump, along with Felicia Allen, had been sworn in as the first female officers in the department’s history just a year before. As rookies, both women rotated from different police assignments about every two months, along with their training officers, experiencing the different roles the department had to offer.

But Crump’s stay on what she called the “wagon,” or the unit responsible for picking up intoxicated people off the streets and taking them to jail, lasted an additional month. The assignment was considered one of the most challenging jobs for beginning officers, she said. In one instance, an drunk man she pulled out of a gutter told her the only place for a black woman was in “the bedroom and the kitchen at home,” she said.

“The administration didn’t want us there,” Crump said. “We were the first females and we wanted to prove ourselves, so they did everything possible to test us. But after two months, I didn’t break.”

The job would turn in to a 25-year career for Crump. She was quickly promoted to detective and worked various assignments ranging from sex crimes and child abuse to homicide. Allen became a tenured patrol officer, a job that would take her to various parts of the city, including south Sacramento, Oak Park, East Sacramento and downtown. Her career with the department spanned 16 years.

“My initial reaction to the city was excitement,” Allen said. “I loved every minute of it. It was invigorating.”

While Crump and Allen described a fulfilling career, the two women don’t hide what they say was the blatant racism and sexism they endured from some officers, department management and sometimes even the community members they had sworn to protect and serve. Not only were they the first women officers in Sacramento, but they were also the first black women among the city’s police ranks.

On multiple occasions, Allen sought permanent assignments in specialized units, such as traffic or what is now known as SWAT, but either was told not to bother applying or was rejected because she was a woman, she said.

Crump remembered two sergeants in the department who repeatedly talked about her rear loud enough for her and others to hear until she finally confronted them.

On Thursday, the Sacramento Police Department will honor Crump and Allen with an atrium dedication ceremony at the department’s Freeport Boulevard headquarters. Both women are considered trailblazers by many in the department and are credited with opening the door for other women seeking jobs in local law enforcement, said Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn.

The ceremony will likely be one of the greatest accomplishments of his career, Hahn said. City leaders like Mayor Darrell Steinberg and City Manager Howard Chan are expected to attend the event.

“I think it’s so important for our community to realize how we got to where we are today,” Hahn said. “Because of them (Crump and Allen), other women are able to realize their dreams and now we’re talking about ‘How can we get more women to be police?’ not ‘Can women be police officers?’”

The dedication ceremony follows a push to increase diversity in the department’s ranks in recent years so it more closely reflects the community it serves.

The department made some progress last August, when Hahn became the department’s first black police chief. A few months later, the department celebrated the promotion of its first black female sergeant, Sabrina Briggs.

But an audit of the city’s gender and ethnic diversity released last month showed 74 percent of the department’s sworn officers were white, though only 34 percent of the city population was also white. Hispanic and Asian officers represented 10 and 9 percent of the department’s sworn staff last year, respectively, while Hispanics made up 23 percent of the city’s population and Asians made up 16 percent.

Black residents represented 13 percent of the city’s population in 2017, but black officers made up only 5 percent of the department’s sworn employees, the audit found.

In terms of gender, women were outnumbered by men among sworn employees at the city’s Police Department, the audit also found. Women represented 15 percent of the department’s sworn staff – down from 18 percent in 2014.

Women in management positions in the Police Department also typically made less than male managers. The average salary for a female management employee was $105,134 in 2017, while male managers made an average of $162,269.

A recent shortage of officers could serve as an opportunity to boost the department’s diversity by seeking out talented candidates from different backgrounds and with “diversity of thought” to fill those positions, Hahn said. The department’s Bootcamp Wednesdays have also garnered popularity by connecting people interested in careers within the department to new officers and experienced cops alike during weekly workouts.

For Allen and Crump, the positive connections they built with other officers in the department helped them persevere through difficult times, they said. Crump recalled finding flowers and notes of encouragement at her desk from co-workers.

Allen credited the support from her training officers during the first few months as a rookie for much of her success in the years that followed.

“The general feeling around the department was ‘Get rid of those girls,’ and they had the choice to make,” Allen said. “... They could have railroaded us and they chose not to. They chose to make us the best that we could be.”

Allen eventually left the Sacramento Police Department in 1991 to work for the Sacramento City Attorney’s Office as a litigation investigator, she said. She would go onto create her own business, On The Move, a company fitness program. Crump retired from the department after a quarter-century, and now spends much of her time helping at her church in Oak Park and teaching mature driver courses.

Crump says she hopes her story serves as an inspiration for other youths, including her granddaughter.

“I’m just hoping that it will be an encouragement for them, that adversity doesn’t mean failure,” she said.

Nashelly Chavez: 916-321-1188, @nashellytweets