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Articles of Interest by Jay B. Itkowitz During his Journalism Career

Hits housing police bias against women

Long Island Press, May 16, 1973

A Bellerose woman fired the first shots yesterday in a legal battle with the New York Housing Authority Police Department.

Ms. Sheila Renaghan, 26, of 247-09 76th Avenue, appeared before the city Human Rights Division to charge the HAPD with discriminating against women in its hiring procedures.

Renaghan, who was joined in the complaint by two other women, Dolores Cagna of the Bronx, and Elben Rothman of Manhattan, filed the charges shortly after she failed the HAPD physical exam in April.

"They don't have policewomen in the Housing Authority," said the 5-foot-9 mother yesterday after the preliminary hearing. That's because - unlike the Transit Authority and the city Police Department - the HAPD requires women to take the same physical exam as men, she said.

She said she knew of at least 10 other women who failed the physical test. But there could be more, she said, since about 40 took the written tests in January.

"HA policemen get the same pay and benefits as other police in the city," she said. "Why can't they give women the same physical as the TA and city PD?"

She said the HA requires that candidates: scale a six foot wall, do four pull-ups, lift a 60-pound weight with one arm and a 50-pound weight with the other, perform a sit-up with a 40-pound weight behind their neck, and do a six-foot broad jump.

Renaghan, who has been attending the John Jay College of Criminal Justice for three years, said she scaled the wall but was stopped from continuing the test when she could not do any pull-ups. She said this is the first time women have been allowed to take the tests.

Men have an advantage on such tests, she said, because "they have been brought up to be more physical." She's confident she could pass the other parts of the test. "The other police agencies don't require women to do pull-ups," she said.

The hearing officer in the case, William Johnson, refused to comment. He said the matter is still in the "confidential" stage between all parties involved.

At yesterday's hearing, attended by several HA officials, Johnson "continued" the case at the request of the HA without setting a date for another hearing, she said.

Renaghan fears the hearing will not be held until the beginning of June. By then, she said, the HAPD may very well have called the first 300 candidates to begin attending the HA police academy's six-month training course. In that case, even if she wins, she may have to wait at least another year before she can attend the academy. Meanwhile, she'll continue to earn $7,300 as an administrative aide. Patrolmen start at $11,000.

Renaghan said the HA took the position that if women want to patrol like men, they should be able to pass the same test. But Renaghan argued that the test would not preclude women from patrolling.

She also said that women would bring additional qualities to the human relations end of police work. "Women and children relate better to policewomen," she said.