Constable May Walker
A Life of Leadership and Courage
Constable May Walker has not changed since her days as a police officer patrolling the streets of Houston. Walker continues to open doors for others through her leadership and courage. Walker was sworn-in January 2, 2005 as the first female and first African American woman Constable of Harris County. On March 4, 2008, Walker was re-elected to a second term in office.
For 24 years, Walker was a member of the Houston Police Department (HPD). As a young rookie, she understood that membership in this male only club came with a price. Walker would not sit still for business as usual in HPD. She confronted, challenged and filed various lawsuits in support of minorities, questioning the hiring and promotional practices of the department.
It all started when Walker filed her first lawsuit in the 70’s; she grew tired of second-class treatment. She was forced to ride with a male officer who clearly disliked African Americans and was not at all a defender of female officers. The lawsuit asked for remedies for allowing female officers the right to ride alone in squad cars and choose their own partners, and because she was barred from entering the locker room, she fought for the establishment of a locker room and an entrance for female officers.
As her career developed, Walker became very familiar with the process and procedures of the legal system. She was part of a class action lawsuit in 1974; the lawsuit was filed on behalf of minorities in HPD and included the Houston Fire Department (HFD). The first part of the lawsuit focused on hiring practices and was settled in the ‘80’s, however it would be years before the second part of the lawsuit would see the light of day. This part was important because it exposed the disparities in the department’s promotional system. The promotional test was suspect because of questions included on the test, and there were also serious flaws in the methodology used for selecting officers for promotion.
It was in the 1990’s that then Mayor Bob Lanier, after hearing about the unsettled lawsuit, pushed for the settlement of the matter. The United States Civil Rights Division proved invaluable in bringing legal representation to the court case. Finally, after more than two decades, a ruling was handed down in favor of minorities in HPD. Walker’s persistence in changing a decrepit system and her insistence in seeking a legal solution for change has made HPD a better place.
Today, many Blacks, Hispanics and women officers in both departments are enjoying the fruits of her labor. Walker has faced many challenges during her career and some thought she was out for the count; they didn’t recognize she was only getting a second wind. Highlights of Constable May Walker’s career: