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Officer Patricia Williams

the academy, the instructors were determined to make us street ready,” Melinda says. The real hurdles starting her career existed among city bureaucrats and the community. In what Melinda calls “the uniform debacle”, the city leadership were stalled on deciding which uniform was appropriate for patrolwomen. “They couldn’t figure out if they wanted us wearing skirts or the standard issue,” Melinda explains. “The city didn’t have uniforms that fit us. I sure as hell wasn’t going to wear a skirt, so I modified the men’s uniform on my own. I’d say the community reaction towards Helen and I was seventy percent against and thirty percent for. One time a woman I was dealing with wanted a ‘real cop and not a meter maid’. My Sergeant drove up and told her ‘You got a cop!’ and then drove away. We were such a novelty that we were accused of all sort of evils. I think the community was trying to get rid of us from the beginning.” As novelty worn off, Melinda would advance her career by attending training courses with the FBI for homicide investigations in Quantico and sex

Sergeant Melinda Bryan, circa '80s

I’d say the community reaction towards Helen and I was seventy percent against and thirty percent for. One time a woman I was dealing with wanted a ‘real cop and not a meter maid’.”

crimes with the TBI in Nashville. For her, going outside the city to learn how others investigated crimes was an eye opener. “I’d brought back so much knowledge, I realized we needed to update our investigation techniques,” she says. “The way rape cases were handled back then was very ignorant. So, I decided to get permission to put together rape kits like other departments I’d learned about. My boss said as long as it didn’t cost the department money it was fine. So, with items donated from local businesses and old shoe boxes I put them together on my own. “I wasn’t out to save the world. If I managed to save just one person in my career, then I did my job. I’ve this philosophy that if you treat people with respect and dignity then you will get

that in return. Years ago, a young man approached me and said that I’d dealt with him and his buddies on a burglary call. He said the way I’d treated them inspired him to turn his life around for the better. I can’t remember his name, but he remembered me. That was it, he was my save.” THE IRON MAIDEN: HELEN HILL (COOPER) Helen resonates much of the same energy as Melinda, a warm kindness mixed with that otherworldly edge. She has a home with a beautiful garden far from the hustle of town, with two majestic stone lions keeping watch. This is a woman who has stared down evil without flinching. You can feel it in her gaze. Sitting across from her, I feel myself being analyzed, dissected, and

filed. I definitely wouldn’t want to tango with her in an interrogation room. Helen grew up the oldest of eight on the wild side of Trenton, GA. Being the daughter of a traveling iron worker forced Helen to grow up fast in order to help her mother raise seven children. “I remember there was always a baby to take care of and we lived far away from civilization. We were always out in the woods,” she says. Helen left town at nineteen, but soon returned with a baby of her own and eventually found seasonal work at Hamilton Distributors on McCallie Ave. Hamilton Distributors was an Amazon Fulfillment Center before the internet. It was here that Helen met Officer Lee J. Hicks on guard duty because of the expensive jewelry at the location. “I was looking for full-time work and Hicks offers me a job in the records department and I fell in love with record-keeping,” Helen says. “Uniform Crime Reports was only a five-yearold department when I started. Sometimes arrest records were written on the back of matchbooks so trying to dig back further than five years would be futile. But the records department

CHATTANOOGAPULSE.COM • AUGUST 15, 2019 • THE PULSE • 7

Profile for Brewer Media Group

The Pulse 16.33 » August 15, 2019  

Chattanooga's Weekly Alternative

The Pulse 16.33 » August 15, 2019  

Chattanooga's Weekly Alternative