Busting the Brass Ceiling - Linden Gross and Fanchon Blake
Book Review By LAPD Commander Ruby Flores
Fanchon Blake’s dedication, talent, and tenacity are qualities that helped her make her mark in the Army, and in the LAPD. She envisioned being rewarded for such qualities in law enforcement but was met with a barrier; she – like all other women – was not allowed to promote beyond the rank of Sergeant. Instead of being a part of what she named “the silent force”, the countless women who dared not speak out, Fanchon complained to her superiors, the media, city council, and to the Police Commission. These complaints fell on deaf ears and was met instead with retaliation: being banished to work less than desirable posts. Someone would need to take the LAPD to court, and she decided that someone might as well be her. Her case would soon make history for both women and minorities after seven long years. The LAPD was now forced to agree to a historic consent decree: they would increase the number of sworn female officers to twenty percent, increase the number of minorities on the force to a ratio commensurate with minority representation in the Los Angeles Workforce and both women and minorities would be allowed equal rights for career opportunity and advancement.
After reading, Busting the Glass Ceiling: How a Heroic Female Cop Changed the Face of Policing, I could not help but to think about a classic movie scene. In A Few Good Men (1992), Colonel Nathan R. Jessup (Jack Nicholson), testified during his court martial, “We follow orders or people die.” In this often-replayed dialogue, Colonel Jessup made a futile attempt to cover-up abuses, silence a whistle blower, and preserve a military boys’ club. In the same arrogance of Colonel Jessup, LAPD Chief of Police Ed Davis (1969 to 1978) once said publicly that he would put women on patrol when the Rams football team put women on the front line (p. 154). It was a classic Chicken Little argument – this is the way it must be, or people die. Navy Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) was not there to save the day, but Fanchon Blake was – perhaps not for herself, but for many after her.
Fanchon never promoted beyond the rank of sergeant; and she did not live to see a female LAPD Chief of Police. Her experiences retold in Busting the Glass Ceiling, prove that she was far more than a trailblazer – she was a hero. Busting the Brass Ceiling is not only a historical perspective, but also a must-read for today and for the future. It is a clarion call for current leaders and future leaders to be on the lookout for the next Fanchon. There are people who will challenge long-standing policies and systems. Leaders must resist the temptation to tell people like Fanchon to get back in line. Instead, they must hear them out; the sky is not going to fall. In Busting the Glass Ceiling, we learn that meaningful change is rarely free or easy. Someone must initiate change and at times they may risk their own future in doing so; and, we stand on the shoulders of giants.
Other Recommended Reading & Resources:
Black in Blue - Carmen Best
6 Strategies to Recruit a Stronger and More Diverse Police Force - Bloomberg Cities
The Shift Length Experiment - What We Know About 8-, 10-, and 12-Hour Shifts in Policing - The Police Foundation