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Women with Badges

Women with Badges

Susan Aaron, Monster Learning Coach

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.

More Resources

This article was originally published on

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 2 years ago


    This is one of MyLife jobs. To become a woman police officer, you must be over 20 years old, a United States Citizen, and have a high school diploma or college degree. You will also need to pass several tests, including a written exam and a physical. Women police officers will also need to show that they have a clean criminal record, good moral character, and are drug-free.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago


    I've seen good and bad in both genders. I've also witnessed victims of child abuse, both sexual and physical, respond postively to both male and female officers. The same goes for adult sexual assault victims. It all depends on the officer's attitude, how they approach victims, words they utilize, having some empathy, etc.

    If they can do the job, the same goes for males, more power to them!

  • 138f8481-ffcf-4a8d-a670-1d1606d5df00_max50


    about 4 years ago


    wow GREAT article, lousy picture.

  • Sesame_street_max50


    over 4 years ago


    I have been an officer for 15 years and love every minute of it! Being an officer is a "calling" not a job. It doesn't matter if you are a male or a female. I know officers who are ROD and don't even respond to calls hoping that the other unit will cancel them. I know who to cancel as my backup as soon as they are dispatched. Male and female. I am going home at the end of my shift and if you are my back up, you are too.
    @ lawman1214, I appreciate your opinion; and I have seen some females do the same in my department. It kills me when I see it. It makes it harder for those of us who are really doing our job and receive "collateral" reputations for their actions. I hope you do not lump all female officers into that category.

    We have some awesome female and male officers like many agencies around the country and of course, we have some that are not. So, men or women, I encourage anyone who is interested in one of the best careers in the world to pursue your dream. You will never know until you try!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    Sorry, but opinions are what this blog is for, so here comes mine. I have 27 years LE experience, POST certified in 3 states, worked in large cities and small, so I have worked with "women with badges". The organization that conducted the reported study, came out with the results it was funded and supposed to produce. Police Chief magazine is a highly political organization that wouldn't dare step to the left or right of their straight line. The quote, "because people open up more to the sensitivity of a female officer," is not factual, or realistic. It's nothing more than a justification. During my career I've worked with two female officers that I felt were a "good fit", for our profession. The majority were not. Sorry, but that is my assessment. My opinion is similar to most male officers. We just won't openly express our personal experiences with "women with badges" out of fear of law suits, discipline, etc. But, the silent majority agree with me. Female officers are more emotional, and that emotion often interferes with their ability to function under duress. Female officers drive slower to "in-progress" calls. I believe it is a "fear" response of arriving before a male back-up officer arrives. You could argue that they drive more safely, but a covert study done at a larger agency I worked for concluded that 96% of the women assigned to "in-progress " violent calls arrived either after or at the same time as the responding male officers. To help even out the difference in the percentage of males vs. females, we only used those type calls that the female was the primary officer dispatched. Law enforcement is a highly dangerous, violent and unpredictable career. Evil does not care about the responding officer's sex. But how about the victim who's calling for help? Let's take that study up. Now I'm not claiming to be a better person based on my gender. I'm simply an average person, 5-10, 185 lbs, and of average strength. There are many "bad guys" that can stomp me into the ground. But, how often have you heard a good'old cop war story that referred to "the dangerous chase and capture of the wanted fugitive "bad-gal"? A female is different from a male in many ways. It is just the way things are. If you're a female and a cop, that's OK by me, just don't try to compare your natural ability as equal to a malsl. It's not. Maybe as we evolve, we will physically change, but not as of yet. It's political B.S. That's not to say you're not better at some things than a male, you simply not a male. By nature, a female lacks the upper body strength of a male. Factually, a female, by nature, lacks the "overall strength" as compared to a male. In today's world it's trendy to have a female police chief, and officers. everything works in cycles. All I really can say is when I'm in danger and I need help (as a citizen or a cop) I want the strongest and meanest cop one the department dispatched to help, not the most sensitive and understanding. Good Luck to all. The world is not fair and equal for all. (Even if it should be.)

  • Mandy_and_me_max50


    over 4 years ago


    My thoughts exactly Drill...couldn't get passed that nasty salute

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago

    Hello I look at the woman with badges as I do the men only it's just alittle difference,Your a woman and he's a man.I feel a woman goes out there thinking of her kids as we as mommy's want really to be home,they your heart tells yu other little kids and people need you if this is you job for life.The men are always the daddy's and the mommy's are the mommy's I'm sure you all get what I'm saying.I'm not a Police Officer just someone who loves each and everyone of you with the deepest respect.I'm a mommy too only mine are grown.I just want to say thank-you all for being out their for us and even if I don't know you and post and say hello and put graphics on the PL site it's because you all out there deserve that and more.God Bless You Always:-) The Woman of the Police Force.SMILE,also you Men out there to The Men of the Police Force.(ALSO TO THE YOUNG WOMEN POLICE OFFICER WHO WAS ONLY WITH YOU FOR 9 MONTHS,MAY GOD BLESS YOU FOREVER, WE WILL NEVER FORGET THAT DAY AS OTHERS.

  • To_serve_and_protect_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Fianlly someone gets it!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    I gotta agree with you drill

  • Myavatar_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Call me petty. I can't read the article because I can't get past the accompanying photograph. Is she saluting? She's not saluting, is she? Why would anyone use a photo like that? How disturbing; am I missing a hidden message? Who is responsible for posting this repulsive image?

  • 19227-clipart-illustration-of-a-black-and-white-coloring-page-of-a-magical-flying-phoenix-bird_max50


    over 4 years ago


    @MarineMPSpecReac: RIGHT ON!!!!!! I completely 1000% agree with you!

  • 19227-clipart-illustration-of-a-black-and-white-coloring-page-of-a-magical-flying-phoenix-bird_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Criminal Justice has always been my passion, since I was a kid. I am currently a Criminal Justice Major at a local college. My family was surprised that I wanted to pursue this career, and honestly I dont think they expected anything less of my decision. They have and are supporting my, and I have NEVER felt pressured or forced to do this. I am choosing this career, because I have always wanted to help those in need, and wanted to be there for the innocent. I love what the Criminal Justice Feild does for the community. I appreciate and respect every single police officer that put there life on the line everytime they get out of bed. I am excited and can't wait to start my career, and be apart of the men and women in blue!! I am women, but I am doing this for me!!! No one will bring me down and make me change my career choice!!

    God bless all you LEO's out there, and I pray that you will be safe--on duty and off!

  • Picture_of_me_5_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Good information I have wanted to be an officer all my life and I applied 25 years ago after I graduated High school, they never acknowledged my application. That was in 1985, I have since got a certificate in law enforcement careers and have the burning desire to be in law enforcement one way or another. Any information or help in the matter would greatly be appreciated. Thank you for the article again :)

  • Trot_copy_max50


    over 4 years ago


    I hope to be a good female officer when I become one. I want to make myself, my department, my community and family proud of me.

  • Deedacop_3-12-06_006_max50


    over 4 years ago


    When many people think of officers killed in the line of duty, rarely do they think of police women. Two female officers have been killed in the line of duty within the last two weeks, with one being right here in my state of Ohio. I have been in law enforcement for over 22 years and it still feels like only yesterday that I joined my department. Still, I worry not just for our male officers, but especially for our women in blue and pray each day that we all make it home safely.
    Sgt. D. Jones
    Cleveland Ohio PD

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