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Women with Badges

Women with Badges

Susan Aaron

The percentage of women in law enforcement is hovering under 15 percent, according to the National Center for Women & Policing, and it’s not increasing. Here’s straight talk from current and former female police officers as to why we’d all be better off if that percentage rose, what’s been holding the numbers down and which women are needed to fill the gap.

Why More Female Officers Benefit Everyone Research and history have disproved the notion that women aren’t suited for law enforcement. National Center for Women & Policing data shows female police officers traditionally employ a style of conflict resolution that puts communication before physical confrontation — a notable finding as law enforcement agencies come under fire for excessive force.

Female officers also reduce the risk of accusations of impropriety by their male coworkers when they search female suspects and prisoners, according to a study by the National Center for Women & Policing.

In a similar vein, female officers are particularly effective in situations involving other women. Susan Cormier, a veteran patrolwoman for the Pawtucket Police Department in Rhode Island, is regularly called outside her district on cases of sexual assault or child molestation, “because people open up more to the sensitivity of a female officer,” she says.

The Perception Problem Although women in law enforcement must meet the same physical, academic and psychological standards as men, stereotyped expectations of behavior still exist. “No matter how often a woman proves herself in the job, she’s got to do it over and over again,” says Diane Skoog, executive director of the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE) and former chief of police for the Carver Police Department in Massachusetts. “Once a guy does it, he’s set.”

Although Cormier has never experienced discrimination within her department, people have asked her if she’s scared or assumed she’s inexperienced. The best reassurance is to look professional and act with authority, she says.

Where Are the Women? According to "The Police Chief " Magazine, part of the problem law enforcement has in attracting women may have to do with simple marketing strategy. There’s evidence targeted recruitment efforts, such as specific Web pages and female officers at job fairs, goes a long way toward increasing the number of women officers.

Early education may also help. Cormier participated in a cadet program in her teens, and even though the program was affiliated with the Boy Scouts, she remembers an even mix of boys and girls. Now Cormier speaks at schools, camps and youth guidance programs.

Skoog says that women often leave law enforcement or stay in comfortable positions to satisfy family responsibilities. The 2000 US Department of Justice Bulletin Recruiting and Retaining Women: A Self-Assessment Guide for Law Enforcement advises setting a comprehensive policy for pregnancy and childcare to retain female officers that should cover such subjects as eligibility for and duration of pregnancy and childcare leave, light duty and disability insurance benefits.

Do You Fit the Profile? Skoog’s perfect candidate for law enforcement has “a unique personality. You’re given a lot of power over others’ lives.” She recommends someone well-rounded and educated, with an “even” personality and an ego in check.

The rewards of law enforcement should resonate with you. Cormier thrives on the diversity of challenges that have been set before her, including SWAT, bike patrol and training new officers. She enjoys being engaged in her community and the chance to help others.

“There are so many agencies that are looking for women,” says Skoog. Along with the benefits women bring to law enforcement, parity clauses in town charters, grant restrictions that demand a certain percentage of women in an agency to qualify and a basic need for more applicants of either gender have opened this profession. “This is the field for women today,” Skoog says.

If law enforcement sounds right for you, here’s how to explore your career options:

  • Consider your interests within the broad range of law enforcement opportunities. Departments to think about include police, sheriff, corrections, federal, university, parks and wildlife. Concentrations within these include homeland security, drug enforcement, K9, detective, community policing and probation.
  • Investigate opportunities to observe an officer at work, such as a ride-along program.
  • Learn what will be expected of you physically, emotionally and mentally.
  • See if there are support programs to help you through exams and training. Find local and national networking opportunities. Cormier regularly meets with women from all fields of law enforcement. NAWLEE matches women at all levels of law enforcement with a mentor to guide them professionally.

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    Protect_Serve2011

    over 3 years ago

    2 Comments

    I go in tomorrow for my physical assesment, I'm a female and I think this article is so true.

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    nolarn2bcop

    about 4 years ago

    72 Comments

    I am a female who will be applying soon for police departments. Many female officers in my city who are rank have given me a lot of encouragement. My city isn't hiring now but they will be giving me recommendations if I have to go elsewhere!

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    Anonymous

    about 4 years ago

    For any of you looking for excellent, economic training for female cops, go to www.jdbucksavage.com and click on my picture for a full schedule.

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    thev8man

    about 4 years ago

    1828 Comments

    GREAT JOB GALS

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    Spike_27

    about 4 years ago

    30 Comments

    There is a female officer in the town i live in, and personally she is an awsome officer who is dedacated to her job, and probably one of the toughest officers i can think of.

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    Anonymous

    about 4 years ago

    i am a female officer on the raod and the first department i worked for hired me in for the wrong reasons and now i am with a great department. this is a great article.

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    RB32

    about 4 years ago

    44 Comments

    I have seen good and bad female officers in law enforcement just like I have seen good and bad male officers. The bottom line to me is look beyond the sex or race and focus on the character of the individual. My former sniper partner was a female and she was awesome as a cop and SWAT member but I have also seen the ones who have made it in just because of their sex and they can create havoc for any department. I have also seen male officers that were hired and shouldn't have been.The bottom line is that this is not a career for every female no more than it is for a male. It is hard on anyone male or female, emotionally and physically. Not everyone can meet the muster...

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    Anonymous

    about 4 years ago

    Great article, it's a benfit to have a female partner with you in the field. I did and I can say it kept me out of a lot of problems.

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    DetBruin

    about 4 years ago

    866 Comments

    Good article. Being with LAPD as long as I have I have seen the attitude about females on the job take almost a 180. My first Traning Officer was a female and she was one of the best out of the 5 I had in that year. As time has passed I have seen women make great strides here and it is great! Law enforcement is so diverce when it comes to the jobs that we have to undertake, likewise our personal has to be just as diverse. I encourage anyone of any "make-up" to join the ranks if they have the same passion and commitment to the job. It takes all kinds to make the world, likewise it takes all kinds to police it!

    Rock on ladies!

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    CJstudent2011

    about 4 years ago

    10 Comments

    Awesome article!

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    toddm394

    about 4 years ago

    274 Comments

    When I first started in law enforcement in S.C. in 1987 we had about 3 female officers with our dept. At that time we had only one of them working the road. I never responded to a call for back-up with this deputy because she worked one side of the county and I worked the other. After I had been there about 6 months and had been released for solo patrol the sheriff's dept had hired another female an she was assigned to my squad and to the area I worked. She and I became good friends and would respond to calls to back each other up after she was released for solo patrol. After a while I would rather have her backing me than some of the guys that I worked with. The males including myself sometimes felt like we had to show how macho we were and we would end up fighting either because of something one of us would say. I did end up in a couple of altercations with the female backing me but not as often and she did a great job of backing me up and of taking care of herself. I would just as soon have a female back me on a call than a male they are every bit as good as a male and there is definitely a place for females in all positions in a dept.

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    Kitti327

    almost 5 years ago

    52 Comments

    A very good article. I'm a female who will be applying with several different dept.s I was worried that they might not take me because I'm female but now I'm a little more confident.

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    GirlCop08

    about 5 years ago

    20 Comments

    Good article. Nobody warns you how you will have to prove yourself "over and over again" being a female in this line of work. It's frustrating, and never ending.

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    jrf12

    about 5 years ago

    4 Comments

    Nice article. Hope to read a few more like it. I am scheduled for the academy and will be the only current female officer once graduated. I have worked with this department as a dispatcher for 6yrs, although the guys respect me for my ability as a dispatcher, I know and understand that I will have to earn their trust and respect as an officer, and I plan on doing just that. I don't feel as if I have to prove myself, any new rookie has to prove himself, so I don't feel it being different just because I am female.

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    pacificshot327

    about 5 years ago

    54 Comments

    Very helpful. I'm a female preparing to apply with various local departments. I'm a bit nervous as to how women are really treated in the force by the guys and higher-ups.

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