Retired Washington police Capt. Frances McCall, 65, a former head of the department's women's bureau and a veteran of 24 years on the force when she retired in 1972, died of cancer Wednesday at Sibley Memorial Hospital.

Capt. McCall was appointed to the force in 1948. She was named head of the women's bureau in 1966 upon the retirement of Capt. Kathrynne S. Boyd. Much of her work concerned abused children and women, and she remained active in her aspect of police work until her retirement on disability.

In an interview with The Washington Post in 1966, Capt. McCall said of her profession: "Humor is important, or else the sordidness would overwhelm you. This is a job you can't live 24 hours a day. Ideally, you should wipe your job out of your mind once you're off duty."

Of course, there were many occasions when Capt. McCall and the officers who worked with her stayed on the job around the clock. And in 1971, she helped set up a system to provide round-the-clock protection for neglected or maltreated minors. Social workers joined police officers in manning the program, which was designed with the old D.C. Deparmtnet of Human Resources to reduce the number of children who were sent to Junior Village, once the city's controversial facility for neglected youngsters.

Capt. McCall was born on a farm in Readsville, Mo. She earned a teaching certificate from Kirksville State College and later taught in Calloway County, Mo. In 1945, she went to work for the Missouri Department of Welfare in St. Louis and attended night classes in social work at Washington University there.

In 1948, she saw a notice announcing openings for women on the D.C. police force and decided she should look into it, although she said later that she had never even met a police officer at the time. She took a vaction from her job and was appointed to the force here on Oct. 13, 1948. She spent many years in the department's youth division. She also earned a bachelor's degree in sociology at American University and attended the FBI Academy.

Capt. McCall, who lived in Washington, helped start the Police Girls Club and worked with the Police Boys Club. She received many certificates of appreciation in the course of her career.

She was a member of the International Association of Women Police and Foundry Unified Methodist Church.

Survivors include a brother, Monroe McCall of Portland, Mo.