There are many stereotypes that women in the law enforcement field have to face. In order to recruit more women into policing, law enforcement agencies should attempt to overcome the idea that policing is a "male-oriented profession". This paper will cover parts of the history of women police officers, some views and stereotypes of the female officer, job related issues, life outside of the workforce and job satisfaction.
It used to be that only nursing, teaching, and clerical positions were open to women. A small number of women worked as correctional officers and their assignments were usually limited to peripheral tasks. The integration of women into law enforcement positions can be considered a large social change. Women were traditionally limited to working in juvenile facilities, handling crimes involving female offenders, and performing clerical tasks. In the past, women were not considered as capable as men in law enforcement.
“. The average policeman and police chief thought of policewomen as a fad and considered their entry into the police field an unjustified excursion into social work. They thought of punitive functions and not preventative ones as the duty of police. No real concerted opposition to policewomen arose in the United States (unlike Great Britain), but rather the attitude prevailed that women had to prove themselves good police officers which they most likely could not do.” (Horne, 1975)
Women were first let into the law enforcement work force because there seemed to be a need for women, due to the rise in young girls and female offenders in the system. Whether it was for domestic violence issues, sexual assault or what have you.
There is a lack of women law enforcement role models. Because women comprise only a small number of sworn law enforcement officers, they are less visible to the community. In many communities, women never have the opportunity to see female officers as role models. For this reason, most women had not really considered policing as a career.
“But policewoman’s presence was still not wholly welcome, they were there because chiefs succumbed to pressure from outside reform groups, not because male administrators or officers saw any need for them. Policewomen’s allies remained other male and female social workers, progressives, clubwomen, and other reformers.” (Miller, 1999)
Employment opportunities for the female police officer are large. Women will be recruited for many jobs in the field to expand the pool of potential sworn officer. It should be a goal off policing to recruit females so they can be recognized on the streets, making it more of a position that women not in the field of police work an option as a career choice. Allen (1973) States, about women police officers, “any question of the value of their contribution to the solution of police problems has long ago been relegated to the limbo of things proved and taken completely for granted.” (p.213) The status of women police officers has grown since the beginning of women in the law enforcement field. As many might think that it is an overwhelmingly large amount, it is still generally a small amount. “Women were 37% of the labor force in 1979, 45% by 1992 Women hold less than 5% of all senior management jobs across the US. Women's representation in municipal police departments serving populations over 50,000 has grown from 3.4% in 1978 to 9% in 1986 - Women are currently 3.7% of sergeants, 2.5% of lieutenants, 1.4% of command staff.” (The feminist majority foundation (1997). The Status of Women in Policing. http://www.feminist.org/default.asp )
Now that women are becoming a larger part in the police work force there can be more and sometimes less job related issues. Women may feel more issues have risen because there are more women in the field. Although it could be that women feel more comfortable in the position they hold because more and more women become part of the field. Other than the major issue of gender, women have other issues to battle. Such as race related issues and competition in the workplace. Through out the history of women police officers and women in the law enforcement field have felt some kind of competition. The possibility that women feel as though they need to prove themselves to their male counterparts comes into play. Many societal changes had come and gone before women were widely accepted into the law enforcement work force. “In England as early as the Eighteenth Century, during the hearing on a case in court- R. vs. Briggs—there was a discussion of the legality of women to serve in a certain compulsory office. One of the judges remarked: “I do not know why a woman should not be appointed to be a constable.” However a century passed before women were employed in police departments.” (Owings, 1969)
Even in that time and place, the statement made by the judge was most likely stating things that were not very well accepted or well liked. After a entire century women were finally let into the field, but not truly accepted.
Now that these old ideas of women not being fit to serve or not being accepted at all have for the most part passed. Women are generally accepted but with the unspoken feelings of approval and need for acceptance being thought and felt.
In the days of the first women police officers, disapproval and disbelief may have been words to explain and describe the way it was. “Many women accepted their responsibilities with astonishing readiness, electrifying their followers into instant activity. When the moment is ripe for it, an idea generally flowers in more than one mind… the honorary secretary of a woman’s suffrage society called the woman’s freedom league, was already engaged in organizing a body of policewomen.” (Allen, 1973)
This was then becoming the beginning of women being a mass part of the law enforcement field. Throughout all of the hardships and stereotypes through history that women in the field have had to overcome, women have made themselves a part of it all.
Ø Allen, Mary S. (1973) The pioneer policewoman. New York, London, and Toronto: Ams Press INC.
Ø Horne, Peter (1975) Women in Law Enforcement. Illinois: (Charles c.) Thomas Books.
Ø Miller, Susan L. (1999) Gender and Community Policing: Walking the Talk. Boston, Northeastern University Press.
Ø Owings, Chloe (1969) Women Police: A study of the Development and Status of the Women’s Police Movement. New Jersey: Patterson Smith.
Ø The feminist majority foundation (1997).The Status of Women in Policing.
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