Felicia Allen remembers the humiliations that came with being a woman in the thin blue line more than 40 years ago.
Someone put dead rats in her mail cubby hole.
Just to make it clear she wasn’t welcomed, her co-workers — fellow police officers — chucked jock straps at her from a barely separate part of the shared locker room.
She heard all of the nasty names and felt the pain of being passed over for positions because of her gender or because “they weren’t going to hire another ‘spook’” for that position.
Officers would show up at her disturbance calls en masse -- not to help, but to see “if the girl could fight.”
“Initially, the men were pretty hostile. They didn’t want me there,” the Dayton native said of her first years as a police officer in Sacramento, California.
In 1974, Allen and Flossie Crump became the first two black women, the first women of any race, sworn in as police officers in that California city.
A week ago, the Sacramento Police Department dedicated part of its headquarters to Crump, a 25-year Sacramento police officer and detective, and Allen during a grand ceremony.
The ceremony was attended by Allen’s mother Felicia Sherer and brother Robert Allen. The mother and son flew in from Dayton.
Despite the challenges, Allen said her 16 years blazing a trail at the department were worth it. She doesn’t want to dwell on the negative stuff.
“(Eventually) they started to trust me and the atmosphere started to change,” she said. “The fact that I was there kept a lot of minority kids from going to jail or getting beat down.”
Raised partly in Dayton, Ohio; Pennsylvania and California, Allen had no plans to be a police officer.
Her mother said she definitely didn’t see it coming.
“For one thing, she was a mild-spoken one of the group,” said Sherer, a mother of four.
Allen’s admittedly undeveloped plan was to be a probation officer, get a PhD and write a book by age 25.
“At the time I was young, I was just ambitious,” she recalled.
At the time a 21-year-old criminal justice student looking for a part-time job, Allen learned about community service officer and police officer positions at the Sacramento Urban League.
Told that the department didn’t hire women as police officers, she was encouraged to check both boxes because community service officers went to the same training.
To her surprise, Allen was hired to be a police officer -- and she fell in love with it.
“I learned so much about myself. It made me stronger. It taught me teamwork,” she said.
She also had support from police trainers dead set on making her a good officer, and they succeeded.
“They could have easily sabotaged me, but they decided they were going to do the right thing,” Allen, who spent most of her time with the department in the patrol division, said. “The fact that I was present diffused situations and decreased the level of aggression.”
She worked for the department eight years between 1974 and 1981, and resigned after failing to break through what she described as a low glass ceiling.
After a few years as a city litigation investigator, she returned to the department from 1983 until 1991.
Decades later and now with the California Department of Motor Vehicles, Allen said she recommends law enforcement as a career for women and minorities.
“(Women) never get the opportunity to experience their full power until they are in a situation where they are in charge,” she said. “It a profession that has an extreme need for women and minorities, but unfortunately, it is a profession that pushes them away.”