DENVER (CBS4) – As Women’s History Month ends, the Denver Police Department is honoring one of their own. Det. Gail Riddell was one of the first females to hit the streets here in Denver when it was allowed in 1972.
“She had a fiery personality, and I don’t know she might have been working as a waitress or at a makeup counter when she got into some debate when a guy friend said women wouldn’t succeed in law enforcement, and so she joined the police academy on a dare basically,” Riddell’s daughter, Molly, said.
That dare would lead to a 30-year career with the Denver Police Department.
“She was really naturally good at it,” she said.
Riddell signed on as a police officer in 1969, only the second class of recruits to include women.
“Some of their initial uniforms were just skirts and really impractical,” Molly laughed.
Her mother’s ability to connect with people meant criminals often opened up about the how and why behind their crimes, making Riddell an expert in theft prevention. She would quickly climb the ranks to detective.
“We would be out shopping in public at a mall or something, and we would be approached by someone that seemed to be an old friend. They would hug and then they would tell me ‘Oh your mom is so smart, such a class act. I really respect her. She’s a great lady,’ and I would find out later it was someone she arrested multiple times,” Molly said.
Lt. Michelle Folmar says she knew the name Riddell long before she met Gail. For her and other female officers Det. Riddell was more than a trailblazer.
“She was really a ground-breaker. There wasn’t a trail then,” she said.
Folmar says thanks to women like Riddell every officer is on even ground.
“It’s become a family and so there is no patrol woman on the badge or patrol man on the badge, it’s officer,” she said.