Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Women in Policing: From Hiring to Promotion 08/04/2010

“[B]ecause you will be one of the few women in your agency, every mistake you make will be noticed and you cannot fade into the background.” -Penny E. Harrington

Policing is an ever changing profession. Current trends in law enforcement may lead to the gender equalization of the field, but women still comprise less than 15% of the police workforce and hold an even smaller percentage of supervisory and leadership positions. Even though women have been patrolling the streets for over thirty years, equality has yet to reach every member of law enforcement, specifically women and minorities. While not as bad as it once was, women face many challenges when both entering into the field of law enforcement, and promoting to leadership positions within the agencies in which they work.

One of the first challenges a women must face when entering the field of policing are physical agility exams. Most agencies throughout the Nation[1] use some form of physical agility testing, which is usually scored on a pass/fail basis—so one must pass the test in order to go further into the hiring process. Each agency develops their own tests and standards by which to evaluate candidates; there is no standardization for applicants and the tests vary from city to city and state to state. For men, most of these tasks are simple as men have more upper body strength and are statistically taller than women (making it easier to get over a six foot fence). According to a study conducted by the National Center for Women & Policing (2003) agencies that do not require a physical agility test have 45% more sworn female officers than agencies that require a physical agility exam. As a female currently going through the application processes, I can personally vouch for numerous females that fail the agility tests though the simple fact that they cannot make it over the fences.

If a female can pass the physical agility testing—and the rest of the hiring process—the next step is attending an academy. Each academy is different; all train recruits for routine police work such as vehicle stops, shooting, report writing, defense tactics, and medical emergencies, yet some academies focus more on scholastic ability while other focus more on physical ability. Upon graduation of the academy the new peace officer must adapt to the harsh reality of what policing truly is, as opposed to what they thought it would be, or was taught it would be. During this stage, new officers are assigned to a Field Training Officer that teaches them ‘the ropes’. Texeira (2002) and many other researchers have found that around this time in a female officer’s career they will find that is it not the community, their families, or the work that makes their job difficult, but rather the harassment of their male coworkers and supervisors.

After passing Field Training a new officer must finish their probationary period, which usually lasts around a year to a year and a half, after which an officer becomes very difficult to fire. Once probation has passed, officers follow their own career paths, many of which lead to promotion to higher ranks. Women have always faced difficulty being promoted to higher ranks. Up until the 1980’s the total number of female police chiefs amounted to less than 10. In 2001, women in large agencies held 7.3% of top command positions, 9.6% of supervisory positions, and 13.5% of line operation positions; in small agencies women held 3.4% of all top command positions, 4.6% of all supervisory positions, and 9.7% of all line operations positions (National Center for Women & Policing, 2002). These percentages show that while the glass ceiling has cracked, it certainly has not fallen away completely; women still face many setbacks on their way to the top of ladder.

Throughout their careers as law enforcement officers, women face many difficulties in each stage of their career. Through hiring, Field Training, probation, and promotion women face many challenges that men do not, adding to their low numbers in law enforcement. However, the number of female officers and women holding top ranking positions continues to rise.

Works Cited

Harrington, P. E. (2003). Advice to Women Beginning a Career in Policing. Women & Criminal Justice 14: 1 , 1-13.

National Center for Women & Policing. (2002). Equality Denied The Status of Women in Policing: 2002.

National Center for Women & Policing. (2003). Tearing Down the Wall: Problems With Consistency, Validity, And Adverse Impact Of Physical Agility Testing In Police Selection. Police Quarterly, Issue 3 .

Texeira, M. T. (2002). Who protects and serves me? A case study of sexual harassment of African American women in one U.S. law enforcement agency. Gender & Society, 16: 4 , 524-545.

[1] For most agencies in California an applicant must complete the following: scale a six foot solid fence, scale a six foot chain link fence, drag a dummy weighing around 150lbs for a certain footage, execute a 90 foot obstacle course, and run anywhere from 500 yards to over 1.5 miles. Each agency sets their own standards and creates their own physical agility tests, but there are norms. Most agencies require that you can scale each fence in under 20 seconds, drag the dummy the required length in under 30 seconds, complete the obstacle course in under [away from home; I need to look at my docs to get this], and run one mile in under 10 minutes. Other tasks can include sit-ups, push-ups, pushing a patrol unit, jumping through windows, testing grip strength…

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Female Officers in Masculine Countries 07/19/2010

Over the past 50 years America has made headway in assimilating females into the police force, but America is not the only country making changes in police hiring practices. Many other counties are beginning to see the benefits of having females in their police force, however, that is not to say that these women are having an easy time being accepted by their male counterparts and the rest of their country. In traditionally oppressed countries, females are struggling to gain acceptance in their newfound roles as peace officers.

In some countries, the basic law enforcement necessities are either not given or issued in a gender specific manner to female officers. In 2009, the London Metropolitan Police was still issuing men’s uniforms to women, as they had not developed a uniform cut to fit a woman’s form (Williams, 2009). In order for their uniforms to fit them correctly, the women had to have their uniforms tailored. For example in China, a police woman’s uniform consists of a knee length shirt and wedge boots, compared to Russia’s female uniform, which is a short skirt and two inch black heels. This shows that female uniforms are all different around the world and that the uniform depends on the country they are in.

While female officers in the United States struggle to overcome discrimination, officers in other countries suffer from more severe forms of sexual harassment. In Uganda, the police women are severely harassed. The female officers face sexual harassment, victimization, lack of support from their supervisors, and a failure to be promoted, paid, or provided an adequate uniform and housing (Ssejjoba, 2009). Some police women must perform sexual favors for their superiors in order to be deployed or promoted while other officers state that they were sexually abused by their male counterparts, and as a result, contracted HIV (Ssejjoba, 2009).

Currently, the Afghan Nation Police is looking to hire an additional 5,000 female officers to supplement its current 1,000 female officers (Brown, 2010). However, the Afghan government is struggling to recruit women due to hash discrimination, continuous death threats, lack of familial support, and general negativity female applicants experience. On September 28, 2008, Lieutenant-Colonel Malalai Kakar—Afghan’s most prominent and highly ranked female officer—was assassinated outside her home on her way to work (The Times, 2008).

Despite the inherent dangers of the job, police women perform invaluable tasks that male officers, due to Afghan culture, cannot perform. In Afghan culture, men cannot approach another man’s wife, enter a home when women are within the common areas, or touch women (which means they cannot search them); all of these cultural restrictions severely inhibit the police (The Times, 2008; Brown, 2010; Vogt, 2009). When the Taliban started recruiting females for suicide bombings and shooting, the ability to search a female has become paramount. Female officers, though cultural standards, can do those tasks, giving the police a huge advantage.

As each country advances towards a more diverse police force, the benefits of hiring females becomes apparent. For many countries, the cultural standards that prevent females from entering the force also prevent males from preforming their jobs adequately. Governments are beginning to realize that having a gender-balanced police force provides invaluable opportunities that were not available to an all male police force.

Works Cited

Brown, S. (2010, February 3). Afghan National Police Seeks 5,000 Policewomen Per Karzai . Retrieved from NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan :

Ssejjoba, E. (2009, April 12). Uganda: Police Women Cite Sexual Abuse. Retrieved from All Africa:

The Times. (2008, October 17). Lieutenant-Colonel Malalai Kakar. Retrieved from The Sunday Times:

Vogt, H. (2009, December 30). Missourian. Retrieved from Afghan police work helps women overcome barriers :

Williams, R. (2009, Mqy 13). Policewomen forced to wear men's uniforms. Retrieved from Guardian:

Friday, July 16, 2010

Russian Mounted Policewomen

Russian women are slowly integrating themselves into a male dominated area of their police force.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Why Women Should Not Be Cops 07/05/2010

1. Female Police Officer:

Female who like to cross-dress; typically in police uniform, toting a firearm. Such females are generally man-hating, carpet-munching, sexual harassment screaming, control-freaking, closet lesbians, "Daddy Touched Me", "Had no social life in High School" rejects.

The above 'definition' can be found on the popular website While not accurate, the description does bring forward many stereotypes female officers face on a daily basis. Over the last twenty years the controversy surrounding women entering the police field has reduced in both occurrence and harshness, yet many still feel that women do not belong in policing. Why? For that answer, you need not look at scientific research or peer-reviewed journal articles, but rather conduct a simple Google search of “Why women shouldn’t be cops”. This is because there is little to no published research that has found that women should not—or cannot—be law enforcement officers.

So, why should women not be cops? What are the general perceptions and opinions floating throughout American culture as to why a female cannot be a cop? There are several major concerns that people have: women are seen as emotional and thus unreasonable, women are not seen as having the necessary personality traits desired by the policing profession, and women are physically weaker than men.

Miller (1999) found that women are characterized by cultural definitions of what a woman should be. For instance, a woman is stereotypically defined as emotional and physically fragile, with a gentle and compassionate nature; these character traits counter to the general perception of what traits are needed to be a police officer --for a cop must be brave and aggressive, balancing rationality and objectivity. The cultural definition of femininity and masculinity marks women as incompetent to perform effectively as a peace officer. Many women also face complications when balancing family life—specifically, raising children—with the requirements of policing. As Dick and Cassell (2004) point out, police agencies find it difficult to recruit and retain women that have children or have had children while working as a peace officer.

Many also feel that police work is dangerous, and therefore women should be kept safe from the inherent liabilities officers face on a day to day basis. Police work is dirty work; officers regularly deal with things that, societally, women are not classified to deal with. Fighting, blood, seeing dead bodies, guns, communicable diseases, and the possibility of being killed on duty are all risks that officers face daily; inherently, men feel that they must protect and watch over women to (similar to the logic used to keep females from fighting on the frontlines in war) keep them out of danger.

The main argument used in defending this stance is the fact that women are naturally weaker than men. As Charles found in 1981, a peace officer’s ability to fend off a violent attacker might be the difference between life and death. Many officers feel that their female counterparts are a liability risk in a fight; since a female is weaker than a male, she cannot offer much assistance in a fight and will need to be protected to prevent injury—both to males that need to step in to take up her slack, and to a female that is overpowered by a larger assailant (Charles, 1981).

Police culture is masculine in origin and has, for years, been performed exclusively by men. Although the larger proportion of society has concluded that women are just as adequate to be officers like men, social stigmas, preconceived notions, and remarks of inadequacy create the ideology that women are incompetent—and incapable—of performing law enforcement duties, which has been proven not to be the case.

Works Cited

(2006, June 24). Retrieved from Urban Dictionary:

Charles, M. T. (1981). The performance and socialization of female recruits in the Michigan State Police Training Academy. Journal of Police Science and Administration, Vol. 9, No. 2 , pp. 209-223.

Dick, P., & Cassell, C. (2004). The Position of Policewomen: A Discourse Analytic Study. Work, Employment & Society 18:1 , pp. 51–72.

Garcia, V. (2003 , August). ''Difference'' in the Police Department : Women, Policing, and ''Doing Gender''. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice Vol. 19 No. 3 , pp. 330-344.

Miller, S. L. (1999). Gender and community policing: Walking the talk. Boston: Northeastern University Press.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

“There are several things that make you stand out as a candidate; one, you’re female…” 06/28/2010

“There are several things that make you stand out as a candidate; one, you’re female…” It was Saturday, June 25, 2010, when I was told that at an interview with a law enforcement agency. Equal opportunity laws have made female candidates desirable when agencies look for new recruits. While very few can doubt that radical change has occurred within the field of policing, upon closer inspection it becomes apparent that women are still facing discrimination within the workforce. Many believe that policing is a man’s job—that women are unable to perform the tasks necessary to succeed as a peace officer. The old stigmas of what jobs are suitable for women still cling tightly to the workforce, in many cases preventing women from attaining their true working potential. The general perception of the female cop, however, is inconsistent with research findings.

Social stigmas attached to females—a perceived inability to drive, use a firearm, respond appropriately to violence, physical weakness, emotional instability—drastically affect the reactions to female law enforcement officers. Policing, after all, is a violent profession and women are perceived as docile creatures. So what, you might ask, can women possibly contribute to policing? Quite a bit actually. Research shows that women are not just an equally opportunity hiring practice, but rather a valuable, if not necessary, contribution to the police force.

While females are physically weaker than males this is only a minor hindrance. Physical strength has not been shown to predict general police effectiveness nor has it been shown that one’s ability to handle dangerous situations successfully is reduced due to a lack of strength. Policing is much more than fighting with everyone arrested. In fact, violence should be avoided and physical altercations kept to a minimum. Injured officers benefit no one. The job of the peace officer is to maintain order; while fighting cannot be avoided in every situation, it benefits all parties involved—officer, suspect and bystanders—when fighting is avoided.

Statistically, female officers reduce violence. Females are involved in fewer physical altercations with the suspects they arrest, have fewer reports of excessive use of force, and have a smaller amount of citizen complaints made against them. And when female officers are required to respond with force, they are as effective as men. Studies show that women are as driven as men when making arrests, usually having the same arrest statistics. (Garcia, 2003; Hoffman & Hickey, 2005) Overall, women have higher communication skills and are seen as more empathetic than men (Rabe-Hemp, 2008).

Good communication is imperative in police work. When the foundation of a criminal case is built on an officer’s ability to reasonably articulate events that occurred, communication skills become invaluable. With a recent shift in policing styles towards community oriented policing, the majority of police work has evolved into something less violent with a focus on community relations.

Works Cited

Garcia, V. (2003). "Difference" in the police department: Women, policing, and "doing gender". Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, pp. 330-344.

Hoffman, P. B., & Hickey, E. R. (2005). Use of force by female police officers. Journal of Criminal Justice March-April, pp. 145-151.

Rabe-Hemp, C. E. (2008). Female Officers and the ethic of care: Does officer gender impact police behaviors? Journal of Criminal Justice, 13.5: September-October, pp. 426-434.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Brief History of Women in Policing; Where are We Today? 06/17/2010

Law enforcement is a quickly evolving line of work. New laws, modern technology, and scientific advancements alter the way policing is conducted on a daily basis. As with all rapidly evolving disciplines, there are some areas within the profession that lag behind; when considering law enforcement, the inclusion of female peace officers has been slow to change.

One of the first recorded female peace officers with arrest powers was Alice Stebbin Wells. She was hired by the Los Angeles Police Department in 1910. Traditionally, women were hired as matrons and social workers, providing services to children and women (National Center for Women and Policing, 2001-2009). As more women entered the police force their job responsibilities expanded in to more traditionally male roles, such as patrol.

With the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (specifically Title VII of the Act), employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin became illegal. However, it was not until 1972 that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was expanded to include public agencies, such as police departments.

After 1972, discriminating against women in hiring, recruiting, promotions, and working conditions—many areas that were used to disqualify women from becoming peace officers—created problems for many police agencies. This was because both the Revenue Sharing Act and the Crime Control Act were passed around the same time. These Acts gave the Federal government the authority to withhold funds from departments that discriminated when hiring females (The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission , 2009). Ultimately, these Acts created an equal opportunity work force within the police community.

By 1974, only 2% of the national police force was female. By 1991, 9% of the police force was female. In 2003, only 11.3% of officers were female (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2010). Although there is a rise in women entering the line of duty, they are often met with adverse reactions by their male counterparts. The negativity female officers face on a daily basis from their male counterparts creates an adverse work environment, resulting in a compromised police force.

Works Cited

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2010). Retrieved from Bureau of Justice Statistics:

National Center for Women and Policing. (2001-2009). Retrieved from National Center for Women and Policing:

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission . (2009, November 21). Retrieved from The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission :

Shoes that would never be practical while on duty, but will make you laugh.

How would you like to walk your beat in these heels?

You can find the original design at

The design was created by Tim Cooper.