Meet two of the early Detroit police officers who worked in the Women's Division

Gracie Hagerman and Grayce Murphy
Posted at 8:38 AM, Feb 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-08 08:39:19-05

DETROIT (WXYZ)  — In honor of Black History Month, we're celebrating those who paved the way for change in our community and beyond.

Gracie Hagerman and Grayce Murphy were among the first women to join the Detroit Police Department Women's Division, according to Jeff Lemaux, curator of the Detroit Police Museum. The Women's Division of the DPD started in 1921.

Lemaux said their duties were specific, and the "policewomen" in the Women's Division would mainly handle crimes against women and children. He said they would also do censorship work, like going out to the movies to make sure viewings were appropriate for children.

A short explanation of duties from the application can be found below:

Grayce Murphy served from April of 1921 to November of 1923, she was the first Black female to be hired into the division, according to historical data.

Photo courtesy Detroit Police Museum

Gracie Hagerman was the first Black female to retire from the Women's Division of the Detroit Police Department, serving from January of 1924 to January of 1949.

Photo courtesy Detroit Police Museum

To be considered for the Women's Division, candidates had to have a college degree or an equivalent, which meant two years of college with courses in social sciences and a work record with duties related to those expected in the division.

According to historical records, there was a Women's Detention Home above the Women's Division, which would serve as a place for women to stay who were taken into custody.

The Women's Division operated similarly from 1921-1970; it wasn't until the creation of the Youth Service Bureau in 1972 when traditional assignments began to change for women working for Detroit police. Historical data indicates women assigned to the Youth Service Bureau could wear uniforms and drive marked patrol vehicles.

The term "policewoman" was abolished in 1973 and the Women's Division was was dissolved in 1975 as women became integrated into various departments.

Lemaux said while little service information about Grayce Murphy and Gracie Hagerman can be found among Detroit police historical documents, they certainly helped paved the way for the female Black officers who followed in their footsteps.

If you're interested in learning more about Black history within the Detroit Police Department and Detroit Fire Department, the Detroit Public Safety Foundation is sharing Black History Month tributes on its Facebook page throughout the month of February.