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Columns : Editorial

In Praise of Women Warriors

Women in policing face many trials and achieve many triumphs both on the street and in their careers.

June 01, 2008  |  by - Also by this author

A female officer from the Calgary Police Service. Courtesy of thivierr (

You won't see a lot of politically correct speak in this magazine. But you will see one thing that does smack of political correctness, we like to refer to both officers and perps as "he or she."

We don't do this out of any desire to be politically correct. We do it for two reasons: First, we want our readers to realize that female perps can be as dangerous as any male dirtbag. Second and most importantly, women police officers deserve our respect and should not be marginalized by terms such as "patrolman" or "policeman."

For decades female police officers received little respect from male cops. They were treated as "secretaries with badges." Today, only a knuckle-dragging caveman would believe that women don't have the courage and determination to be cops.

Thousands of women warriors are serving with distinction on the streets of America, fighting crime and preserving public safety. And they are also being wounded and killed because of their service.

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 223 female police officers have been killed in the line of duty. Six were killed last year. Here's the story of one female officer who was murdered in the line this year.

Officer Nicola Cotton of the New Orleans Police Department was a woman warrior who embodied the best attributes of the American police officer. She was dedicated to her job and driven to make her community a better place. By all accounts, she was a selfless servant of the people of New Orleans. In fact, she was so dedicated to the job that she accepted a position on the force shortly before the Katrina disaster and attended the academy in its immediate aftermath.

Think about that for a moment. Nicola Cotton, 22 at the time, chose to attend the police academy and become a "Crescent City" cop after one of the worst disasters in American history nearly destroyed the city and ravaged its police department. New Orleans and her loved ones lost this remarkable woman far too soon.

On Monday morning Jan. 28 Officer Cotton, 24, was on patrol when she approached a middle-aged homeless man sitting in the parking lot of a strip shopping center. Believing the man to be a rape suspect, Cotton tried to take him into custody. Minutes later she was dead.

Official reports tell this story: The man was a paranoid schizophrenic twice her size and when Cotton tried to cuff him, he attacked her. For seven minutes, Cotton struggled with her attacker on the pavement. She lost her radio, but she managed to get it back and call for backup.

Unfortunately, help did not arrive in time. Police say the man grabbed her baton and struck Cotton. The blow must have dazed Cotton because it allegedly gave her attacker the opportunity to wrestle away her .40 caliber Glock. Officer Nicola Cotton was eight weeks pregnant when she died.

On page 44 of this issue of POLICE Magazine we continue our yearlong series "The State of American Law Enforcement" with a look at women in policing. "Women Warriors," written by senior editor Melanie Basich, is a frank look at the trials and triumphs of successful female officers. The officers contacted for the story tell of their experiences on the job and how their careers have affected their personal lives.

Once a novelty, the "police woman" has become as common place in some jurisdictions as her male counterpart. Women who were once directed to specific areas of law enforcement involving children now serve on homicide units, SWAT teams, narcotics squads, and in other high-profile assignments. Women also have achieved at all levels of leadership in law enforcement, including the chief's office of several large American cities.

POLICE salutes these women warriors, and we honor them for the tough job that they do alongside their male counterparts on the mean streets of America.

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