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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

  • Kate_n_i_max50


    about 5 years ago


    Yes! We can. We have..and will continue to serve and protect.

  • Me_max50


    about 5 years ago


    The least they could have done was got a real person to do the salute in this pic.

  • Mcc_police_009_max50


    about 5 years ago


    Women Officers make a positive difference, but did this article have to find the worst picture of the fake officer saluting the middle of her forehead?

  • Bronzestarribbon_max50


    about 5 years ago


    All sisters are welcome! its a tough job and who better to do it.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 5 years ago


  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 5 years ago

    I think it all depends where you go as to whether you deal with difficult issues pertaining to being female. Agencies tend to be different even when not far from one another. I have been mistreated with some personelle in one agency where as I can feel comfortable and know I am respected in another. I say go for your dreams, don't allow the word "can't", and pray to the good Lord to place you where you belong. It'll all work out in the end. :)

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 5 years ago

    What an AWFUL salute.....that is a complete eye sore for a Soldier!

  • Nora_phone_4_max50


    about 5 years ago


    I hope more people will start to see that it shouldnt matter what sex you are, when in comes to law enforcement or any other field. working on getting my foot in the door here. i believe its my calling.

  • Wind_therapy-_angel_max50


    about 5 years ago


    Great article, Great links, I can't wait to get on the force, God willing it will be in the near future.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 5 years ago

    That is true about the having to prove yourself especially if they change you to another rotation or you go work for another department during your career. Women have more patience with the people we deal with in the public. I know because I live it everyday I work. Women can be more symphathetic to certain individuals. Its all in how you talk to them. I work for a County Police Department and sometimes my back up is miles away so VERBAL JUDO is your saving grace. Be safe out there girls!!! :)

  • 100_1859_max50


    about 5 years ago


    I have been in law enforcement for ten years. I worked as a dispatcher, 911 operator, and a police officer for the first 5 years and have raised two children. I had to do all the same things as the guys but I earned their respect in the process. Now my daughter has just joined the Army reserves as an MP and my father could not be more proud. We have followed in his footsteps. I love my job and no matter what could not see myself in any other line of work. Good Job to all women officers. Keep up the good work.

  • Lion_cub__masai_mara__kenya_max50


    over 5 years ago


    I've seen females work as both Security and Sworn officers, i have no problem working with them.

    actually I'll always remember chasing a five foot two barefooted officer Cooper through a parking lot screaming 'DON'T KILL HIM COOPER, WE CAN'T KILL HIM' as she chased a man stupid enough to snatch her purse. (He had made the assumption that since she was short and had just taken her shoes off to rest he could get away.)

    i loved working with her.

  • 14600_10200352713679693_171098802_n_max50


    over 5 years ago


    and may god bless all of them!!!!!!!!! one day with prayer and hard work i will be one of the few

  • Kyle_police_2_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Good Article. Been at Law Enforcement for 21 years and a negotiator for approximately 15 years. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

  • Photo_1_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Half the people in this country are female; half the force should be too - if they can find the right ones. The same goes for the male half.

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