Linda Smith served on the San Diego Police Department from 1974 to 1979. (photos by John Gregory)
Retired police woman was among the first
Scripps Ranch resident Linda Smith is a lively woman who proudly explained that she was among the first group of women police officers to go out in the streets on patrol for the San Diego Police Department (SDPD).
She said she was a police woman from 1974 to 1979. In those days the SDPD had one-man and one-woman cars, she added. She went out on patrol alone.
Yes, there was discrimination against female police back then, and Smith had to face her share, but she struggled through it.
“You have to be tough and you have to prove that you can do the job just as well as anybody else,” she explained. “The discrimination did not come from the public; it was more internal. Men were worried about having women cover their calls, and (having) women as a partner for something, and strength issues.”
There were many memorable events during her career, but one very difficult day stands out in her mind.
“The PSA plane crash happened on my beat,” she said. “That’s one reason my career ended after five years, because of that. I had PTSD.”
She was referring to the Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) flight 182 that collided with a Cessna light plane on Sept. 25, 1978. They both crashed in North Park. The accident killed 144 people, including seven on the ground, and it devastated several neighborhood blocks. It’s understandable that Smith suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after being on the scene of such overwhelming destruction. She is not alone in suffering PTSD as a result of that horrifying day. Other emergency responders as well as news crews who arrived at the site were similarly affected.
While that tragic incident eventually led to the end of her police career, it didn’t define it completely. A lot happened as she served the SDPD on patrol during the span of five years.
“Also very memorable were all the people I met; the robberies and hiding in the bushes with a shotgun,” she said. “And picking up someone and discovering they have a gun, and what to do, and how to cover yourself, and hot stops.”
The memories seemed to jump from her eyes as she recalled her days on the police force. Smith chuckled as she described the biggest fight she was involved in as a police officer, although it most likely was not funny to her at the time it happened.
“My one biggest fight was, unfortunately, when I was less experienced and it was a woman at the women’s jail. I’ll never forget it,” she said. “She got out of her handcuffs and she was swinging her purse at my head, and all the inmates were leaning out the window cheering for her, which I thought was very ungenerous of them. But she got into custody and she got booked.”
Smith was armed while on duty each day, and she had to point her weapons at suspects on occasion.
“I didn’t have to shoot anybody, but I held one person who didn’t do what they were supposed to. I would have had to (shoot),” she said, adding that her weapon in that instance was a shotgun.
Smith said that although she is still allowed to carry a pistol with her, she doesn’t. She has it locked up in a safe at her home.
Smith doesn’t carry her pistol, but takes self-defense classes and is going for her purple belt.
Today, Smith keeps up with her self-defense training by taking classes at United Studios of Self Defense, run by her son, Zachary Smith. “He’s the best chief instructor in the whole world,” according to Linda.
“I’m 73 and I’m doing it, and I’m going for my purple belt,” she said.
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