Alice Stebbins Wells (June 13, 1873—August 17, 1957)
was the first ever female officer in Los Angeles. Previously a minister in Kansas, Wells joined the Los Angeles Police Department after petitioning the mayor, police commissioner and the Los Angeles city council in order to better aid other women and children who were victims of crime. Wells went on to become the founder and first president of the International Association of Police Women, and
traveled America and Canada to promote female officers. Having been sworn in on September 12, 1910, Wells eventually retired in 1940.
Since 1890, law enforcement agencies had employed women only for the care of female prisoners. After Wells successfully petitioned for a place on the LAPD, she was equipped with a telephone call box, a police rule book and first aid book, and the "Policewoman's Badge Number One"; however, this was not always believed by the public. Wells was assigned to work with the LAPDs first juvenile officer, and was quickly subject of an order issued by the force that ruled that young women could now only be questioned by female police officers. Wells began her career supervising skating rinks and dance halls, as well as interacting with female members of the public. Two years after Wells joined the force, two other female officers were sworn in, with all female officers now under the control of the Civil Service. Sixteen other cities had hired police officers as a direct result of Well's activities by 1915, when Wells created the International Policewomen's Association, later renamed the International Association of Women Police.
Nationwide publicity and retirement
The appointment of Wells had attracted nationwide attention. In 1914, she was the subject of a biographical film entitled The Policewoman. The University of California created the first course dedicated to the work of female police officers in 1918, and Wells was made the first president of the Women's Peace Officers Association of California in 1928. In 1934 she was also made the LAPD historian, and by 1937 there were 39 female officers in the LAPD, and five reserves. Wells remained the department's historian until she retired on November 1, 1940. She spent many years traveling the United States and Canada, promoting the use of female police officers, and is remembered for having "fought for the idea that women, as regular members of municipal police departments, are particularly well-qualified to perform protective and preventative work among juveniles and female criminals." Wells died in 1957, and her funeral was attended by high ranking officers from the LAPD, and a ten-women Honor Guard.