This week marks the 50th anniversary of the swearing in of Rome native Phyllis Shantz to the United States Secret Service.
Around 1970, the Secret Service was concerned about the lack of female agents available to assign to female protectees. Shantz - who recently shared her career history in interviews - was one of the solutions to the Secret Services issue as they began to seek female officers.
In August 1969 “...President Richard Nixon signed Executive Order 11478 that in part, stated that the United States government provide equal opportunity in federal employment for all persons, to prohibit discrimination in employment because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, or age, and to promote the full realization of equal employment opportunity through a continuing affirmative program in each executive department and agency,” reads a statement.
On Sept. 6, 1970, Shantz was appointed, and then sworn in on Sept. 15, 1970, as the U.S. Secret Service’s first female officer and assigned to the Executive Protective Service (EPS), the modern day Uniformed Division.
An additional six female officers were appointed by November that year.
Along with her appointment she was authorized to carry a firearm and make arrests; both previously prohibited and relegated to male officers and agents at the federal level. Female police women serving throughout state and local police departments also experienced such restrictions, according to information.
Born in Rome, Shantz’s family moved to Washington, D.C. around the time she was 10 years old.
While Phyllis Shantz was growing up there, she remembers there were always police officers eating at her parents restaurant, which she got to know.
A connection to those officers helped instill in her a strong sense of community and sense of public service.
Years, later, as she came to work for the Secret Service, she felt part of the global community.
She went on to graduate from the University of Maryland, and was 24-year-old police officer assigned to the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department’s Tactical Squad-Youth Division when hired by the Secret Service.
Shantz recalled that it was a challenge being the first female Secret Service officer.
At the time, there was no template for female officers, and so she wore plainclothes and kept her gun in a purse, having no proper EPS uniform attire or holster issued at that time to utilize.
“It was charting new ground. Every day was an adventure, and it was also difficult with co-workers and supervisors because we didn’t know what to do with each other. We took it a day at a time and rolled with the punches,” she said in a statement.
In March of 1980, Shantz left the Secret Service and joined the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. She retired from the ATF in 1998.
Working for the Secret Service was a “great opportunity” and different assignments gave her a global perspective. Details included Pope John Paul II and Golda Meir, the former prime minister of Israel.
Reflecting back on her career, Shantz said, “Law enforcement is such a wonderful career. It gives back to the community. ... I tried to do my best, for myself, colleagues and for the women that would follow, and the sake of the Secret Service. There was a lot of pride. ...I can’t believe it’s been 50 years.”
Fifty years later, the Secret Service Uniformed Division ranks have more than 230 female officers to include Deputy Chief Catrina Bonus, of the White House Branch.