Moving Forward, Local women achieving success

An interview with Lt. Margaret Kline

An interview with Lt. Margaret Kline

October 16, 2007|By SUSIE SAGER MASON

Her job is more than a job, more than a career. It is her life. Weaned by hard-working men who came before her, she was instilled with a work ethic where she has given to the job more than asked and taken more than she ever imagined.

On Jan. 4, 1977, Margaret Kline was sworn in as the first woman police officer for the City of Hagerstown. She became the first woman officer who worked patrol, had arrest powers, and carried a gun. She had spent the previous two-and-a-half years as a police cadet and in the first Hagerstown Police Academy.

Kline broke into a man's field without thinking she was breaking new ground. She saw having to work harder to prove herself as part of the job, not discrimination. She saw having to establish credibility the same for both men and women.

Asked when she realized she wanted to be a police officer, Kline answered, "I started out at Hagerstown Junior College (now Hagerstown Community College) as a communication major because I wanted to go into broadcast journalism. In my second semester I took a class called Introduction to Law Enforcement because I needed an elective.


"In the class, we were told about the new cadet program being offered by the Hagerstown Police Department and were encouraged to take the upcoming test. I don't remember any other woman taking it. So, I took the written test, passed it, and received a letter in February telling me to report the following Monday. I was 18 years old.

"Looking back, it was really just a lark. I think at age 18 I was thinking, 'OK, I'll give it a try,'" Kline said.

Her "lark" has led to a lifetime of service to the City of Hagerstown and to this day she is grateful to Chief Clint Mowen for hiring her and giving her the opportunity to serve.

Having recently marked her 33rd anniversary with the department, Kline has served in many capacities as a policewoman in Hagerstown from a cadet dispatcher to the first woman lieutenant and shift commander. She is now the director of the Western Maryland Police Academy, which provides training for Washington County and Maryland counties west.

"In the beginning, there was only a male locker room and shower. I came to work dressed, showered when I got home, and only went into the locker room to my locker if I needed something after everyone else was gone. Today, of course, there is a women's locker room and shower," said Kline.

"The Police Department had a height requirement back then of 5'9", although I was only 5'7". There were a few police officers the same height at the time. I don't remember having to take a physical fitness test, but today there are physical fitness requirements. Certainly today you can't use height or gender as hiring guidelines, but now as then they do have to ask themselves whether this person can do the job."

As a cadet, Kline's career began on the street, four to six months before the first police academy opened its doors. She worked with a Corporal Gray, "a former police detective and one of the best persons I could have worked with. I learned so much from him," said Kline.

"During my first months, part of my job was to walk the downtown at night to check buildings and to see who was out on the street. Sometimes it would be 2 in the morning, and I'd be walking downtown in the rain. It was cold, and there was no place to go in. I can remember searching for apartment buildings that may have heaters in the hallways just to stay warm. Of course they always say that a good policeman never gets cold, wet, or hungry!" Kline said as she laughed.

During the next years as a cadet, aside from the months spent at the Academy, "we received on the job training," said Kline. "We went out in patrol cars with the officers. I remember riding with officers when I was 19, 20 years old and they had been on the police force for 25 years. They were somewhat protective. I remember officers who welcomed you to ride along with them. It was a big deal to get to write up a traffic report or minor complaint. We had the opportunity also to work with the detectives in the detective bureau."

After being sworn in, Kline started out on uniformed foot patrol. After her first year as a patrol officer she was given her own sector, which was the northeast sector and "was a pretty quiet one," Kline said. She worked the 4-12 and the 12-8 shifts, finding the latter to be especially challenging.

She was then transferred to the traffic division, which handled all traffic accidents, parking complaints and traffic law enforcement.

From 1980-1981 Kline worked with another officer on the warrant squad, which served warrants and summonses.

When she moved into the detective bureau in 1982 she was placed in the juvenile diversion program, which dealt with all first-time minor offenders. Detectives in this program handled the investigations where a child was the suspect in a crime or the victim of a crime, including child abuse. During this time Kline worked closely with the Department of Social Services.

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