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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


    over 5 years ago

    My Daughter-in-law has been a sworn officer for 6 years now, we are very proud of her. Women face a lot of different challenges that male officers avoid, a lot of perps think they can *take* a female officer easier than a male. That is NOT always the case. Go get em ladies, you have a place in Law Enforcement and you're much needed!!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago

    whoot!! after this mp stuff i"m off to LAPD baby!!! go woman!!!!! hear me roar!!!

  • Officer_bob_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Yeah I'm with Adrie down there..can't wait to EARN that badge one day :)

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago

    Good article. I didn't realise the stats were as low as they are. When I went through the academy, there were five of us(females) to 50 males. We had to do the same physical training as well as academic training. We were all encouraged and didn't feel discriminated towards at all.

  • 14_max50


    over 5 years ago


    This is why I'm taking my first step this coming week! (CJBAT test)

  • Hat_max50


    over 5 years ago


    i was once told that in law enforcement your neither male or female, your just a police officer. So there should be no need to discrimination, we're just like the men! We can do that job!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago


    I loved this article it is true because I work at a women's prison and it is hard to get women to come to work there and we as women have to prove ourself everyday.

  • 74596_129289523905506_927477597_n_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Great article!
    Can't wait to earn that badge one day...

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago

    Oh yeah... There is nothing like "We need a female Officer at the scene..." Or, in NYPD terms: "Central, we need an 85 from a Female Officer...."
    Sure, we need more girls on the job.
    And, rest assured: Takes a lot of crap off you... Boys.
    Great article, thumbs up...!!!

  • In_remembrance_of_oakland_pd_max50_max50_max50_max50_max50


    over 5 years ago


    I worked with women in both the military, and my stinit as a CO, and I can tell you, there were women in both the Armed Forces, and Corrections that I would rather have with me than some of the poor excuses for men I ran into!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago

    Harassment is never going to go away. But you cannot linger on it either. If you're thin skinned, you don't belong on the job anyway. Battles (whether it be of the mind or body) are a two-way street...even the most chauvenistic asses I've ever met get fair treatment from me on the job and I don't let them bother me. Look for the good in everyone and ALWAYS, ALWAYS have their back. Period.

  • M_47410fdb0048b0ac6cdb0d27962cc918_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Great article, I took a test last week a physical and was intimidated to be the only female attending their were between 15 to 20 males, the part that intimidated me was all of them made remarks of how old I was, Married /single/kids/gay/straight. I choose to ignore evryone and told them if you are under 30 to young over 35 to old everyone else will have to compete with my husband and kids lol.. some continue but after I took the test and smoke almost everyone they stop bugging me and looked at me as a competition..

  • P23-2_max50


    over 5 years ago


    To quote a great movie (Hot Fuzz) ...
    "There's our only policewoman, Mary"
    "She's a Police officer, being a woman has nothing to do with it."

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago


    Great article!!! I am in my 24th year on the job now, I was the first woman on my dept. It was not easy and the harassment continued for many years until they finally realized I was not going to let them win! Good luck to all those following behind me, promotions are few in some departments because some just refuse to give a test because they still want their "boyz" in there. Beyond all the BS, it is the best job in the world, period!
    Sue W. New Jersey

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago


    And there was a fight to get to that 15%. I am proud to say I was part of that fight.

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