Online Exclusive

Woman Warriors: Stories From the Thin Blue Line

This is the time of year when I try to catch up on my reading.  There are so many great books out there, it’s hard to choose where to begin, but there is one book on my list that’s been sitting on my nightstand for a couple of months now and I finally got the chance to read it.  The author, John Wills, is a fellow contributor, so I was fortunate enough to be able to chat with John about his new book “Woman Warriors: Stories From the Thin Blue Line.”

John is a former Chicago police officer and a retired FBI agent. He is the perfect combination of old-school Chicago cop and “just the facts ma’am” federal investigator.  He’s an outstanding communicator with a dry wit and I’ve rarely (if ever) heard him use profanity.  John writes both non-fiction and fiction in the form of novels, short stories, articles and even poetry. He has contributed to several anthologies including: “True Blue to Protect and Serve,”   "Stories of Faith and Courage, Cops On The Street, American Blue: Real Stories by Real Cops" and the “Rappahannock Review.”

John has more than 125 articles in print and online and is working on his sixth book.  He is also an authorized NCAA speaker on the dangers of steroids and can speak to student-athletes on that topic and he holds a certificate as a personal trainer.

John has been working on “Woman Warriors” for almost two years.  He wanted to write an anthology book after contributing to so many others and he’d never seen one about women in law enforcement.

John started in law enforcement in 1971 inChicago, ILwhere women were matrons, correctional officers, or working in juvenile.  With his usual candor, John admitted to me that as he worked in the ghettos and on the rough streets of Chicago in the 70’s, he couldn’t picture himself going into a bar fight with a 5’4” 115 pound female partner.   However, as more and more women came on the job, he began to recognize that his female co-workers brought a sense of calm to so many situations.  Even though they were capable of finishing the fight, John saw that most of the time women could diffuse an altercation before it began.

“I’ve known women that I’d go through any door with, and some that I didn’t care to work with” John told me.  “But the same holds true for the men I’ve worked with.”  We both agree, it’s not about someone’s sex; it’s about the individual cop.

John broke down “Women Warriors” into five parts: Patrol Officers, Dispatchers, Investigators, Chaplains, and Corrections.  I was especially excited that he had included dispatchers in his book and I asked him why. “I’ve always recognized that a good dispatcher can literally be a lifesaver when things go bad for that cop on the street,” was his reply.  “I wanted every area included; women are so important to this profession.”  We also talked about his respect for the mental toughness that it takes to be a female correctional officer, knowing that all day every day it’s nothing but felons, and usually male ones at that.

The stories themselves are fascinating.  “A Rookie’s Tale” by Lt. Kimberly Owens literally had me laughing out loud and reminded me of my own silly rookie days.  Officer Brittni King aptly describes how “gallows humor” gets cops through tough situations in her essay “He’s Got a Gun!”  In Canadian crimefighter Myrna James’  “A Year That Changed My Life” she had me feeling the same frustrations we all feel during a critical incident before, during and especially after, when the “hindsight bias” of our bosses and our agency creeps into our world.

Officer Shannon Leeper’s chapter “One Good Shot,” about euthanizing a deer in suburban Lenexa, KS makes me want to join her on a ride along just to hear more of her stories.  Blogger “Tired Dispatcher” contributed two essays and talks frankly and accurately about the dispatch profession.  “Not unlike people who have lost their sight,” she writes, “we don’t get to use our eyes to observe the body language of someone.”  I agree with her that dispatchers truly have a "super power" - their hearing.  I also agree with “Tired Dispatcher” that dispatchers are heroes too, but they don’t always get the recognition they deserve.

Reverend Jan Heglund accurately describes what it feels like to be a patrol officer “stuck” with the chaplain ride along (and how she gets cops to talk to her) in her warmly written essay “Do I Have to Talk About God In This Small Space?”  Former transportation deputy Mickey Koerner talks about all she learned working on “the inside” doing a job she never really intended to have.  Your heart will break when you read Deputy/Paramedic Melanie Draft’s essay “The Storm” about finding a lost three year old boy too late.  And the book’s first chapter, retired Chicago police officer Arlene Ajello’s story of her work at Ground Zero after the 9/11 terror attacks will fill you with incredible pride and gratitude, just like it did me.

Author John Wills hopes that “Warrior Women” is read by law enforcement and by citizens who want to know more about the profession or just want to understand.  He also wants people to see that “everyone chooses law enforcement for different reasons” and the women in his book are no different than women in any other line of work.  We’re here to do a job, to support our families, to try and help our communities, and so much more.

The book’s forward is written by my friend Dr. Ellen Kirschman, author of “I Love A Cop,”  “I Love A Firefighter” and a forthcoming book for professionals on how to treat and counsel those in the public safety profession.  The stories inside are compelling, funny, frightening, and intense, just like this job.  It’s a great read and I recommend that you put “Woman Warriors: Tales From the Thin Blue Line” on your own reading list, I’m so glad that I did! 

John Wills:

The Book:

NLEOMF bookshop: