Photo of Shirley Woods
Shirley Woods


“I can go write another ticket if you like.”

Shirley Woods began her professional life as a nurse in the emergency room at Saint Joseph Hospital. By a twist of fate, one night while working she learned that the South Bend Police Department was accepting women on the force. On November 1, 1970, she not only decided to make a drastic change in career, but also became the first African American policewoman on the South Bend Police force.

According to the South Bend Tribune, Woods’ trailblazing move was met with “little fanfare” as no news articles of this moment in time were written. According to many who knew her, Shirley was a caring but tough officer, not afraid to enforce the letter of the law when necessary or write another ticket for offenders who gave her lip. A telling story occurred when Shirley pulled over a young man who had recently taken her daughter on a date and tried to use this connection as a way out of the ticket. In response to his observation that he had just taken her daughter to the movies, Shirley said, “I can go write another ticket if you like.”

Shirley was especially interested in helping younger officers transition to the force and helping at risk children avoid getting caught up in the legal system. Shirley advanced to the rank of corporal before retiring from the force in 1991.

  • First African American Woman South Bend Police Officer

Information compiled from various South Bend Tribune articles