Top female law enforcement Chief Carol Mehrling of the Montgomery County police department in Maryland will retire in February.
"It's a loss to women in policing," said Penny Harrington, director of the Feminist Majority's National Center for Woman and Policing. "There were only two [female] big-city chiefs - Carol was one, and Beverly Harvard in Atlanta is the other. . .That's half of our [female] big-city chiefs gone in one move."
Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan spoke about Mehrling's role as police chief. "There were some concerns, but there were a lot of good things that happened when she was chief. Her Leadership led directly to the reduction of the crime rate we've seen in Montgomery County."
The concerns Duncan referred to come from an incident last February when Mehrling caused an automobile accident by running a red light and did not report it. Also, some members of her department resented her, believing that she gained her position as chief solely because of her gender.
Mehrling has continually insisted that gender had no impact on her being hired as police chief. She does however, acknowledge that being a woman has forced her to play by different rules. In 1971, when Mehrling first joined the force, there were only about six other women employed.
"Women had to have bachelor's degrees and could only work in the youth division," Mehrling said. "Men only needed a high school diploma, and they went right on the road."
Mehrling plans to spend more time with her family after retirement, and particularly with her aging parents.
Media Resources: Washington Post - November 18, 1998