Adapting to change
The department did not have female uniforms or a sexual harassment policy in place when the women entered the academy.
They wore civilian clothes during inspections and usually had points docked, while men were in their crisp uniforms. They didn't get their uniforms until shortly before they graduated from the academy, Smith said.
Every decision made about the female uniforms was a fight, Garcia said. Should the women have a side zipper or a front zipper? What kind of shoes should they wear? Could they have a purse?
The uniforms the women wore during their graduation were A-lined skirts, short heels and Women's Army Corps hats with K9 badges.
“I remember a lot of the men tried to look up our skirts,” Smith said.
Loflin said when she became a supervisor years later, a female officer reported another supervisor was sexually harassing her and the supervisor was disciplined. It wasn't like that for the five.
“There was no law for harassment. Sexual harassment was not known,” Loflin said. “If one of us had done that, they would have looked at us and said ‘If you can't handle it, you can't take it, get out.'”
It took about a year before the women were considered real police officers, said Garcia, who was the first female officer to get into a violent, physical altercation with a suspect.
After the fight, Garcia and her partner were giving their statements to the typists at the office.
“I was holding my hair that had been pulled out during the fight for evidence. It still had pieces of my scalp still on it,” she said. “A younger female cop approached me and told me, ‘I'm so jealous of you.' My partner turns to me and asks ‘What the hell is she talking about? We just almost died.'
“But I knew exactly what she meant. I finally proved myself,” Garcia said.
Paving the way
Oklahoma City police Capt. Kimberlee Flowers met the five women after she was hired in 1982. While female officers still had to prove themselves to their male partners, a lot had changed in 10 years, Flowers said.
“They really paved the way for us,” she said. “We are a lot more accepted now and it wouldn't be that way without them.”
Today the police force has 118 female officers.
“We were on the cusp of change and we didn't even realize it,” Garcia said. “If one of us messed up in any way, there would not be any policewomen because they would use that as an excuse to hire no more. That we had to make it and we had to make it stepping on glass and stepping around obstacles.”
Smith became the first female major in the department. Loflin ended her career as a lieutenant, and Garcia, Adams and Conner were inspector sergeants.
“We knew men and women are different but we can do the same job, but in different ways,” Loflin said. “We had to learn our own limitations and our strengths and to use them.”
Each of the five women worked for the department for more than 20 years — the years it takes to be eligible for retirement — and took a trip to Puerto Vallarta to celebrate.
In January 2012, Loflin was honored as the city of Apache Woman of the Year. That was the last time all five women were together.
“Norma's death has left a hole in our group that we can't really ever fill,” Loflin said.
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We were on the cusp of change and we didn't even realize it. If one of us messed up in any way, there would not be any policewomen because they would use that as an excuse to hire no more. That we had to make it and we had to make it stepping on glass and stepping around obstacles.”
One of five women who were Oklahoma City's first female police officers