One of the Guys

Harvard's Only Policewoman Holds Her Own

Thirteen months ago on a sultry Sunday night, a small red light on the intricate communications console at the University Police headquarters blinked on. It signaled electronic alarm: there was a break-in at the master's residence at North House. Outside the Linnean St. house. North House Master J. Woodland Hastings told the first officer to arrive that the intruder was armed and that his wife was still inside the residence. Barbara A. Blaney Harvard's only female police officer, drew her standard issue 38 cal revolver and entered the darkened building. It was the only time Blaney has unholstered her weapon in three years on the street.

As it turned out, she and her backup officers captured the Cambridge man inside the house rather routinely. "It turned out to be not as serious as it appeared," she says now, adding. "It just shows you've got to step back and think before you do something unwarranted."

But according to her superiors--and, more significantly, her fellow patrolmen--doing something unwarranted is the last problem Blaney is likely to have. And department administrators add that the high degree of professionalism and the acceptance by peers achieved by Blaney and Marie Sullivan '79--who left the force recently to pursue an MBA degree--has cleared the way for other female officers at Harvard in the future.

University Police Chief Saul L. Chalin describes Blaney as "one of the most proficient police officers around, males, of course, included." In annual evaluations, she "scores as one of the highest rated personnel in the department," he adds.

"Barbars exudes a confidence in her role as a police officer that is very easy to read by others," Chafin says.


Blaney's confidence and her commonsense approach to the job served to case the tensions that might naturally rise from the addition of women into the patrol force. "Walking in her police shoes," notes University Police Capt, Jack W. Morse." I can see it being a somewhat difficult thing to walk into a male-dominated department."

He adds that "it's fair to say that she's accepted by her fellow officers. You just don't get the smart remarks you might get."

But Blaney's acceptance depended more on the opinions of her fellow patrolmen than on their common superiors. Officers interviewed recently give Blaney their highest praise they say they would want her to assist on any call One remarks. "When it comes to a backup. I'd take her as another officer with no problem No questions asked Period."

"With the economy like it is," Blaney says. "I'm sure there are people in the department who think a man with a family should have this job." But she adds that her superiors "don't ask me to do any less than the men, and I know [Chafin and Morse] don't want them to."

The 25-year-old Blaney said her election by her peers as an officer of the patrolman's union last year "was somewhat a vote of confidence--that I did a good enough job to handle the money in their treasury."

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Department administrators feel the widespread acknowledgement of both Blaney and Sullivan by their peers is the best evidence that female representation on the force can be increased. "The department, from the chief on down, has demonstrated it's willing to accept people regardless of gender," Morse says, adding that "Barbara was a pioneer for that, and she'll be a good role model in the future."

Harvard, Chatin explains, is definite interested in finding additional women," especially is the vacancy created by Sullivan's departure "There will undoubtedly be a pro-active effort to identify strong female candidates."

But as in the hiring of Blaney and Sullivan no quotas will be established and no requirements will be modified. Chatin says. He explains that part of the reason for the success of the female officers is that the department "pulled no punches."

"There was no reason to change any of our high standards for the women to qualify," he says, adding that the female officers are accepted because their male counterparts are aware of this equality.