Policewoman packed gun in satchel

BREMERTON — More than three decades after she retired, Ruth Head returned to her former employer, the Bremerton Police Department, with a gift to posterity in tow.

Head, the department’s second female officer, has donated her department-issued uniform, complete with tie and leather satchel, to the department’s mini-museum of artifacts at the front counter of its Burwell Street headquarters.

Though she wore it walking the beat downtown in the 1950s, it appears freshly pressed, with a badge that shines like she wore it yesterday.

“We’re so happy to have your uniform,” Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan told Head when she arrived Tuesday to see it in the department’s display for the first time. “You can tell we’re pretty proud of it.”

Head, now 89, said she was “very proud” to have the uniform displayed. And how about knowing it would last for future generations to see?

“It feels pretty good,” she said.

Head, a native Bremertonian, was the first woman to graduate from Olympic College’s law enforcement program.

To say Head — who was Ruth Bozarth during her career at Bremerton police — worked in a different era of law enforcement is a gross understatement. She had no patrol car and, if a sergeant wanted to reach her while she was working the beat, certain lights around the city would flash, prompting her to go to a telephone.

Being the second female officer presented its own challenges, though. She couldn’t get promoted, for no other reason than her gender.

“I couldn’t be a sergeant because women couldn’t be sergeants,” she said.

In her scrapbooks, she kept the letter to prove it. When the department asked the city attorney for his opinion on whether she could be promoted, the answer was no.

“It is the opinion of this office that such examination is not open to a person in her classification as policewoman,” then city attorney Gordon Walgren wrote in a letter to the department.

Nonetheless, she held her head high, working alongside her male colleagues in keeping order at the then city jail, answering and dispatching calls and responding to them. Some things never change: She was often called to deal with the same drunkards and miscreants she’d dealt with before.

She carried her revolver in the leather satchel she swung over her shoulder.

The uniform isn’t all she brought. Scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings, photos and police credentials chronicle a career that spanned from 1955 to 1980.

Nancy Widen, Head’s daughter, said her mother will often donate clothing and other belongings to Goodwill. But after Head got in touch with the Bremerton Police Department, her uniform and other memorabilia found a new and permanent home among other artifacts — early versions of breathalyzers, Tasers and night-vision goggles.

For the police department, the addition was a no brainer.

“We said, ‘What a great addition to the historical display,”’ said Joe Sexton, the department’s community resource officer.

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