Three decades as a Chicago policewoman
When Pat Hays started with the Chicago Police in the 1960s, her uniform was a skirt with a box jacket and “a ridiculous hat shaped like a sugar scoop. And it didn’t matter how many bobby pins you used, that damned hat would lift up in the wind and go trailing down the street. So if you got a choice of losing your hat or losing your prisoner, the hats were $40 apiece and there weren’t that many available. It was a one-of-a-kind deal. You couldn’t even find a hat to replace the hat that belonged to you. So of course we held on to the hat. You could always get the prisoner later.”
StoryCorps producer Maya Millett interviewed Hays at home and they talked about Hays’ three decades on the force. When she started, the belief that you were a policewoman because you serviced all of the bosses was common, Hays said.
Once, Hays was part of a new unit, and the man she was working with asked how she got the job. She didn’t say anything and after about ten minutes he kept at it. He accused her of sleeping with one of the bosses. She kept quiet.
He kept pestering her and finally asked, “Which one are you sleeping with?”
Hays says he looked him right in the eye and said, “All of them.”
“And I won the pissing contest,” Hays said. “A lot of times it was just brains over brawn.”
The job took a toll on Hays’ marriage. She says she wouldn’t want her daughters to follow in her footsteps. “I didn’t want them to put up with the things I did,” she said. “I didn’t want them to see the things that I saw.”
In spite of the negatives, Hays said, “It’s kind of a calling. Nobody’s gonna tell you you did a good job. Your sergeant’s not going to tell you how great you are…but you have to be able to go home knowing that you did some good, you helped somebody along the way, or the person that you talked to today is in a better situation than when you dealt with her.”
Hays says when she finally retired, it wasn’t because she was tired of the job or that she was tired of talking to people.
“It was because I couldn’t stand all of the nonsense that the bosses were going through,“ she said, “I still like solving people’s problems. I would have done it forever. It was the paramilitary mindset that I had the most trouble with.”