Capt. Joyce Leland of the D.C. Police Department spread out a fist full of hollow point bullets on her wood desk top, readying her pistol for reloading on her third day on the job as supervisor of a Capitol Hill Precinct station.
"The men say to me, 'Oh, Joyce, you're so privileged because you're a woman.'" She plugged the bullets into the cylinder of her Smith and Wesson snub-nosed .38, tucked it into her holster and held her hand on her hip.
"They can cut that woman crap." Capt. Leland said. "I tell them, 'Don't look at me like a woman' - cause most of 'em got these weird ideas about what a woman is. I say, 'Look at me like a supervisor,' I say 'don't be scared, I don't come to work looking for love because I got a dynamite man at home.'"
Leland, who is 36, was promoted recently to captain, the first woman to work her way through the ranks of the 4,500 member D.C. Police Department to achieve that rank.
"The lines are clearly drawn on the question of women on the force," said Sgt. Robert Stewart, 30, a nine-year veteran and one of 50 blue-shirted officers at Leland's Precinct 1D1, located in a newly renovated and rapidly changing area of Capitol Hill at Fifth and E streets SE.
"Some still believe that you have to be six-foot-five, 190 pounds to do the job," he said.
The first seven women were hired into the department in the middle of the first World War in 1917. They were placed in what was known as the Women's Bureau where their assignment was to work with children's problems. In 1965, when Leland joined the force, that was where she was first assigned.
When the Women's Bureau was abolished in 1967 amid a rising wave of indignation over sexual discrimination, Leland and 22 other women were transferred to the department's Youth Division.
An early advocate of women's rights in the department, Leland - the highest ranking woman on the force - was appointed by former police chief Maurice Cullinane to head a group called Project FILES (Females in Law Enforcement Study) in 1976.
Yet, when several policewomen complained publicly in 1977 that they were victims of sexual harassment on the job, Leland was among the senior women officers who called the claims "mostly talk."
"Most of the women I know say the problem isn't any worse here than other places," Leland said at the time. "Most of the women said they've known how to handle men since they were little girls: how to turn them on, how to turn them off."
According to other ranking officers, Leland has been instrumental in the hiring of many of the more than 300 policewomen who now serve on the force. Of that number, 18 are now investigators, seven are sergeants and one - Leland - is a captain. Nearly 80 percent of the women are assigned to some type of street unit.
"I have to keep telling these people 'I am not the captain of women,'" Leland said not long after her promotion. "You have guys who try to push the women officers off on me because they don't want to deal with them, and you have women who simply take advantage of the situation. These women are not joining the force out of a women's lib thing. Oh, no. It's for money, pure and simply," she said.
"We have good women and bad ones, just like the guys. But I'll tell you, some of these dames should have been terminated a long time ago. Some of them out on street patrol just get scared and huddle in somebody's brightly lit doorway all night," she said.
Leland, who said she has wanted to become a policewoman most of her life, was born in Southwest Washington. Her 19-year-old mother died when she was three. She was raised by her father, a strict disciplinarian who routed the kids out of bed at 5 a.m. to do chores each day, and at 3 a.m. when it snowed. He was a messenger for the IRS and hacker.
One day, she recalled, he said to her, "You might have a pretty face, but, honey, you're going to have to work for a living." It was then, she said, that she started thinking seriously about being a policewoman.
"I really wanted to be a social worker. Went to work for a while at Junior Village (the city's now-defunct shelter for juvenile delinquents). Then this man came around asking if anyone wanted to be a cop for $6,500. We said, 'why not?'"
Some people believe a woman is going to be afraid in a fight," Leland said as she and Sgt. Stewart began a tour recently of her Capitol Hill precinct. "Well, I'd rather talk than fight," said the captain.
"Me, too," said Stewart.
"I don't want to retire all messed up, cut and snaggle-toothed," said the captain.
"Me, either," said Stewart.
As their patrol car turned onto North Capitol Street from H Street NE, they spotted a man frantically fanning the flaming engine of a Ford family wagon. After radioing the fire department, he maneuvered his flashing patrol car behind the smoking vehicle. Then both he and Leland jumped out.
Stewart headed straight for the flames, reachel onto the carburetor, and removed a burning rubber mat that the man had used in an effort to put out the fire.
"Now you saw how he went up to that car?" the captain observed.
"That's something I don't think I would have done, unless someone was trapped inside. If that's an indication that women are less aggressive than men, well . . ."
"The point," interrupted Stewart, "is that this matter of what poses a threat is a relative thing; it's different for different people. The point at which I feel threatened may not be the same for you."
"Oh, of course," Leland nodded approvingly to the now-beaming sergeant. She recalled that there had been times in the past when her male partners were the first to show signs of fear.
"This big dude came swaggering our way, and my partner - Lord, I don't think he'd ever seen anybody so big, black, sweaty and bloody before in his life. He was ready to drop him in his tracks. I told him to hold on. I told the other fellow to get himself a Mountain Dew or something and sit down and talk it over. That's my thing. I'm a talker. I'll con, bluff my way before I'll pull this gun."
After working her way to sergeant in the department's youth division, Leland was promoted to lieutenant in the patrol section, first being assigned to work the volatile 5th District, which includes the once riot-torn H Street NE area that was referred to by police in 1968 as a "hot spot" and is now frustratingly called a "concentration of the miserables."
Here is where many of those displaced by renovation in Northwest and Capitol Hill are crowded into cheap rental units until they are forced to move again, she said.
"God by with the men of the 5th," Leland said.
Her next assignment was considered good preparation for new job on Capitol Hill. It was the 2nd District, west of Rock Creek, where she responded to calls about raccoons on the rooftops of Georgetown manors.
"Next to burgalaries," Sgt. Stewart said smiling, "the big thing over here is when somebody's dog craps on the neighbors lawn. That's when they call police. You got lots of congressmen moving in."
I push paper around here. But ultimately I'm responsible for every crime that occurs in the (five square mile) area and every blue shirt on the streets," she said.
Leland, whose second marriage is in its second year, does not have children. Her husband is a city social worker - "a frustrated policeman," she says.