Last HPD Matron Retires
Sylvia Dawson Hangs Up Badge After 30 Years
They were an important part of the Honolulu police department, back when female police officers were not allowed.
"It's a unique group of people and I'm honored to be permitted to be a part of it," said Sylvia Dawson, the last of the matrons who retired last month.
Dawson was in her 20's when she was hired to be a matron with the HPD.
Beginning in 1910, the role of the female police officer in Hawaii was as a matron. They were in charge of the cell block, feeding prisoners and handling arrested females and juveniles. Matrons were sworn personnel and would wear a badge, but did not carry a gun.
She was the first to put the breathalyzer to use at HPD, becoming the coordinator for the breath analysis program. By choice, Dawson spent most of her 30 years working the midnight watch. Why? Because it was the busiest.
"Basically we came up with the fact that we're adrenaline addicts," said Dawson.
But it was addicts of another kind that Dawson said she watched grow in the community. When she started, very few women were being arrested. But things changed quickly.
"This is when the beginning of when crystal meth hit the island and it was a rapid decline," said Dawson. Being a woman in a "mans world" wasn't always easy, but she has no regrets.
"When the children of the people I came in with started coming through the door in uniform, I said, 'Ok, it's time,'" said Dawson.
Today, her uniform is now a part of HPD's museum.
"Yes, I am a part of the past history of the department and I'm very proud of it," said Dawson.
In retirement, Dawson said she plans to travel, spend time with family and learn to sleep at night.
Currently, there are 220 female police officers on HPD's force.
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