Twenty years ago, a woman in a police uniform wasn't a very common sight.

"We probably caused a lot of wrecks from people doing double-takes. I had a guy walk into a parking meter on Third South," said Salt Lake police Lt. Judy Denker.That was in 1973, when Denker and several other young new police officers were repeatedly thrust into the spotlight because they were women.

Denker, now a lieutenant, works in administration. One of her peers, Shirley Whitworth, is now an assistant chief.

"Now, the women-in-law-enforcement issue is kind of blase," Denker said. "You get tired of the novelty and you think the novelty by now would have worn off."

Whitworth said publicity about being a woman police officer has been an occupational hazard throughout her career. "From day one in our career it got highlighted with each promotion and each move."

Being in the spotlight for an outstanding accomplishment is one thing, but being singled out for being a woman "creates some animosity. With your peer groups, you hate to be singled out just for that reason."

Sandy officer Gwen Moore works in a much smaller department. While women police officers have become less of a shock to men on the force, it still will take time before gender is no longer an issue when administrators make promotions.

Moore said she did well on written portions of a sergeant's exam, but fared poorly on a peer review section of the test. "You don't have that many females in the group, and the guys are going to rate the guys higher," she said. "They haven't grasped the concept of a female sergeant yet."

She asked Chief Gary Leonard to drop the peer review the next time a sergeant's exam is offered, but Leonard said he hasn't decided what the makeup of the next exam will be yet.

Administrators who keep track of personnel show the effects of the "affirmative action" era when asked about the number of women on their force and the kind of assignments they have.

Larger departments queried by the Deseret News had statistics on the number of women on the force readily available and were even able to show what ethnic minority backgrounds those women represent.

Smaller departments were quick to point out their hiring practices are based strictly on ability - not gender. But even the smaller departments in Salt Lake County have women in uniform.

The ratio varies from agency to agency, but women account for about 10 percent of the police officers and deputy sheriffs statewide.

Salt Lake City's 33 female officers make up about 10 percent of the city's total force. South Jordan's one female officer accounts for more than 10 percent of the total force - of nine officers.

Denker said she doesn't know where the men-to-women ratio will level off and sometimes has mixed feelings about seeing the number of women in police work increase.