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Memphis Police Department
201 Poplar Ave.
Memphis, TN


History of Women in the MPD

MPD Women - A History

Memphis' First Female Officers

The 10 women pictured below began training as "meter maids" for the Memphis Police Department on March 17, 1958. They graduated on March 31, 1958 as commissioned officers but were not armed and were told to avoid making arrests. For some reason the next group of "meter maids" were not commissioned so to correct this confusing situation all women were retrained for 200 hours then re-commissioned on May 15, 1970. 

Julia Claire Lester was among the first female officers hired on March 17, 1958 and was re-commissioned during that 1970's class. She was promoted to lieutenant on July 26, 1979 and became the departments first female 30 year Captain when she was promoted to that rank on March 17, 1988. She retired in 1992 after 34 years of dedicated service.

MPD Meter Maids 1958

Captain Lester is pictured above - front row, 3rd from left.

Claudine Penn - MPD's First African American Female Officer

Pictured above is Claudine Penn, who was employed September 16, 1963 as a "meter maid" and was Memphis' first African American female police officer. She was commissioned on May 31, 1968. In 1973, Claudine Penn became the first female African  American sergeant and on April 7, 1995 she was promoted to 30 year Captain - the first African American female to achieve that rank. Captain Penn retired on July 8, 1995.

Below is a History of "Firsts" for MPD Policewomen 

First Female Officers
Betty J. Coats
Katie Fitzhugh
Ossie Fay Fowler
Julia Clair Lester
Frances E. Marzioli
Bernice A. Parrish
Elsie L. Sanders
Rosie Sigler
Rita Thompson
Erma Z. Trent



Re-commissioned Officers
Betty J. Coats
Kathleen Henry
Eva Gatlin
Frances Weyebacher
Ann Felts
Joanne Moore
Louise Dunnavant
Ina A. "Billy" Bruno
Sue Siko Lester
Irene Huey
Aileen White
Julia Claire Lester
Katie Ernestine Fitzhugh
Mr.s Eichelberger
Elsie Whitten
Claudine Penn
Mary Sample Fowler
Elzeta Warren
Pearlie Douglas

Graduating Class - 1970

Graduating class of policewomen - re-commissioned in 1970.


Inspector Torrance

Inspector Armer Jean Torrance
Chief Inspector Olander Franklin

Chief Inspector Olander Franklin

Canine Officer Jane Martin and her partner

Helicopter Pilot Dawn York

Inspector Pilot was promoted
to Deputy Chief in 2003 and
became the first female
Deputy Director for the MPD in 2008.

Lt. Tina Halfacre - First certified Motorcycle Squad Officer and Supervisor



First Female Detectives
Louise Dunavant
Mary Sample Fowler

First Female
African American Police Officer
Claudine Penn

First Female Sergeant
Joanne Moore

First Female in a Squad Car
Freeda Bowers

First Female Lieutenants
Louise Dunavant
Mary Sample Fowler

First Female
Field Commander (Lt.)
Mary Sample Fowler

First Female
African American Court Officer
Armer Jean Torrance

First Female Winner
Director's Award for
Excellence in Academic Achievement

Mary Grace Coats (now Johnson)

First Female
African American
Armer Jean Torrance

First Female
Captain (MAJOR)

Joanne Moore

First Female
Field Shift Commander

Joanne Moore

First Female
30 Year Captain

Julia Claire Lester

First Female
African American Captain
Armer Jean Torrance

First Female
African American Inspector
Armer Jean Torrance

First Female
Dog Squad Officer
Jane Martin

First Female
TACT Commander (Lt.)
Patty Lovett

First Female
TACT Unit Officer
Dawn Anishanslin York

First Female African American 
Chief Inspector

Olander Franklin

First Female African American
30 Year Captain
Claudine Penn 

First Female
Aviation Unit Officer
Dawn Anishanslin York

First Female
African American Deputy Chief 
Brenda Jones

First Female
Deputy Director
Janice C. Pilot

First Female Colonels
Mary Overton-Jackson
Gloria Crenshaw

First Female Lt. Colonel
Mary Gallarno-Balιe

First Certified Female
Motorcycle Officer
Lt. Evertina Halfacre


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