When Flossie Crump started at the Sacramento Police Department as a young woman, she knew she had to prove herself.
As one of two female officers sworn in in 1974 – Crump and Felicia Allen were the first of their gender to become patrol officers – there was no trail blazed for a lady cop. The pair prevailed, and Thursday will be honored by the Sacramento Police Department with the dedication of the Crump-Allen Atrium.
Some of her fellow officers harassed her openly with racial slurs and sexual comments. Others did it anonymously, making obscene phone calls to her home. Some of the behavior was blatant and some were subtle. On the whole, she preferred the blatant behavior, because at least she knew where she stood.
But all in all, she says, she was given a fair chance to prove herself by training officers who treated her with respect.
She spoke warmly of the white officers who trained her: George Brown, Dana Felgenhauer, and Dave Gale, who taught her the ropes and treated her fairly, like any other rookie officer, even when it meant taking heat from higher-ups who took a dim view of black, female officers.
One of Crump’s early assignments was on the paddy-wagon, picking up drunks – a typical assignment for a new officer, but she was kept on it longer, seemingly to break her resolve. She took it in her stride, learning "something about humanity" while on the paddy wagon detail.
She learned, “everybody deserves respect and dignity,” -- including an inebriated man she pulled out of the gutter who had soiled himself, yet considered himself her superior, assailing her with racial slurs and informing her that her place was in the kitchen and bedroom.
Crump figured his bad manners were his own concern and didn’t reflect on her in any way and didn’t let it bother her.
From an early age, society’s expectations of her didn’t meet her own. As a young child growing up in New Mexico, yearly vocational aptitude testing at her school reported she was 'good with her hands.' Crump thought that was just fine – that her teachers were giving her positive feedback. The way she saw it, being good with her hands would help her in a secretarial position in which she would need to type and take shorthand.
But that wasn’t what they had in mind. For them, ‘good with your hands’ was code for stoop labor: picking cotton and other such menial agricultural tasks. Crump’s mother encouraged her to work hard in school, and she did, but aptitude test results continued to steer her in the same dismal direction.
And she, characteristically, continued to set her sights higher.
She did eventually work as a secretary in a legal firm. When the lawyers she worked for won the case of a man accused of rape, Crump took a dim view of the police work involved, thinking to herself that she could do better.
The seed was planted.
She knew she could measure up – but for a time, the Sacramento Police Department did not see it that way. The department had a height requirement of 5 feet, 6 inches. At 5 feet, 5 inches tall, Crump was out of the running until the requirement was changed.
From there, the physical tests were demanding, including climbing a six-foot wall and dragging a 160-pound dummy a set distance – but nothing she couldn’t manage. After she proved herself at the academy, she had to prove herself to an ‘old school’ administration dubious about a woman’s abilities in the hardscrabble world of law enforcement.
Crump was sure of herself, but not cocky. Going into law enforcement, she wanted to be sure she didn’t hurt herself, her fellow officer or her marriage -- those were the conditions she set for her law enforcement career.
Eventually, she made it off the paddy wagon detail and spent most of her career as a detective, specializing in child abuse and sex crimes.
Especially in the early days, she was conscious of having to prove herself – to work harder and be tougher than male detectives. An early case that tested her was the death of a 6-week-old infant. At the autopsy, the only way she could get through it was by telling herself over and over it was a doll she was seeing, not a baby.
When she got back to her desk, her supervisor noticed she was shaken up and asked her if she was okay. After she twice denied anything was wrong, he called her out onto the veranda and said, “It’s the baby, isn’t it.”
She broke down and cried.
For the most part, however, she put on a ‘tough girl’ mask and didn’t take it off. She kept her soft heart hidden – but she kept it. In the face of the worst crimes, even as she did her best to hold offenders accountable, she also held onto treating people with respect and fairness.
I’ve always believed everything God made is good, even what we would consider the worst of the worst,” she said. “In other words, when I was doing homicides I could detest and even hate the fact that a homicide had been committed. However, the person who committed that homicide was a child of God and deserved to be treated with respect.”
Through all the ups and downs of more than 25 years in law enforcement, she kept her faith and didn’t let the ‘downs’ make her bitter.
“Those are the things that make me who I am, and I’m so in love with me,” she said.