Women in Policing
Women in Policing
Women have come a long way in the area of the workforce in the past one hundred years. If you were to look back one hundred years ago, you would never see a woman working outside of the home. Society had the idea that a woman’s place was in the home cooking, cleaning, reproducing and care giving. They had the idea that there was no place for her in the workforce because that was a place for only men. Yes, it is true that some people may still have this view today but a lot of things have changed over the years. Women are no longer only restricted to working in the home doing domestic chores. However, this did not come easily but rather after many years of fighting to get the same rights as men. Slowly women started to enter the workforce fulfilling roles such as secretaries and nurses. It was jobs like these that were viewed as woman’s jobs and you would never see a woman doctor, fireman or police officer. Women were still being marginalized into a certain category of jobs. However, women continued their fight and today they fulfill such roles as doctors, fireman and police officers. In this essay, we will focus on the entry of women into the police force. We will not only look at what it took for women to get into the police force but also what types of roles they play in the police force today. In addition, we will look at what roles women hope to play in the police force in the future. By doing this we hope to show you how far women have come in the area of police work in the past one hundred years and how far they will still have to go.
History of Women In The Police Force
In the past, policing and women were never associated with each other. Policing was a male dominated profession which women were not welcomed to join. However, these biases and unfair beliefs that women were not welcomed in the police force began to change slowly. In the nineteen tens and twenties woman began to be employed by the police forces. Women’s social groups began to lobby that women should be able to be employed by police forces. With all of the support groups that women were involved in, pressure began to mount for there to be a representation of women in male dominated police forces.
The first women police officer in Canada was sworn in the Vancouver police force in 1912. “1912: Vancouver - Mrs. Lurancy Harris and Miss Miller were sworn in as 4th class constables” (LeBeuf & McLean, 38). When a woman became a police officer during this time era, they were usually given special cases that were seen fit to be handled by women police officers. Women were seen as being more able to handle situations that dealt with children and other women because it was believed that men were unable to deal with emotional situations as well as women. ” Women were argued to be uniquely qualified to deal with cases involving women and children; they were likewise skilled at defusing family fights and doing undercover work on vice squads that called for women” (Lunneborg, 5). Women were put into these special units that dealt with mainly women and children because women were not seen mature enough to handle the duties that male officers were subject to.
Women were very discriminated against and had only a small number of representation in police forces. Even though there were women police officers, they were not seen as real officers. Most of the woman hired by police agencies were performing traditional women’s jobs including secretarial work or as specialist in juveniles.” (Cohn.pg.188) These were the main role that women police officers were historically given. However this has changed over the years.
It was not until after world war two that women began to be hired by police departments voluntarily. Women had proven that they could handle themselves in situations that dealt with high stress level. “World war two provided convincing evidence that women were valuable auxiliaries within all-male organizations.” (LeBeuf & McLean, 41) This was a start in their quest for equality and fairness in a male dominated police force but it was far from enough. After world war two women did receive some recognition that they were able to perform as an officer in a police department. However, attitudes stayed the same as they had always been. In the seventies a study was conducted by the police federation that stated these findings.
“The major reason that the role of women in
policing had traditionally been so limited was
because most of the men in control of police
departments assume that policing is a man’s
job and that women should be used only in
those few positions that obviously require a
woman-such as work with juveniles.”
These attitudes kept women from becoming police officers because the obstacles were very hard for them to overcome. Policing has been a male dominated profession that was still run by males. Therefore, if they wanted to be able to enter the police force and slowly work their way to the top, they had to do it under male authority. This was very hard because they had to get hired by a male and if this male officer did not feel like he wanted to hire a woman he did not have to. Thus, the odds were somewhat against them because they were trying to work their way into a profession that was run and dominated by males. It is because of this that polices were implemented which made police forces higher a certain amount of women each year.
In the eighties and early nineties, female representation in police forces across Canada has risen. “What the statistics all agree on, however, is that the proportion of women in police department keep rising” (Lunneborg. pg. 251). With the rise of female employment in police forces risen it seems that female are becoming accepted into the policing world. However, that is not what is occurring in police forces that have female officers. Stereotypes and biases are still held against female officers that date back to the start of the century. ” Female officers had to fight not only crime and criminal activity, but also the negative attitudes and the stereotypes directed at women in general and female police officers in particular (Hernandez, Dreifus. pg. 42). Even though female employment rates are climbing in Canadian police forces, female are still stigma with century old stereotypes and biases.
Women Policing in The Present Day & The Problems
Today, many jobs in society are dominated by men and law enforcement is one of these jobs. Many people in society view policing as a masculine career. Women who are in the police force or want to be in the police force have to overcome certain obstacles that are involved in the job. Fitting into a male dominated force is an ongoing progress that continues throughout the career of a policewoman. However, there has been quite a bit of progress throughout the years concerning women and policing, but there are still some obstacles that need to be overcome.
Men and women are generally viewed as equals in society, but their gender still separates them. Researchers have discovered that most men and women have virtually opposite psychology’s, seeing themselves and the world around them quite differently (Kearney and White, 22). These psychology’s may make the two gender groups different but it should not make them unequal. Psychologists have found that men, with few exceptions, see life as a contest. They compete against people for status and power. Women, on the other hand, would rather form partnerships instead of competitors. They feel everybody is interrelated in a community. However, those two views are to two extremes and people can fall into the Grey areas between the two extremes. In addition, studies have shown that men are seen as aggressive, and women are seen as passive. This study can create problems for women police officers of today because society may view them as being not aggressive enough to handle certain situations that area associated with policing.
There are also physical differences between men and women. Men enter the academy with a physical advantage. They are usually stronger than women and are usually more likely to have had previous athletic and bodybuilding experiences (Martin and Jurik, 77). Men, by nature, are physically stronger than women. Therefore, women may not be seen as being as physically capable as men. However, according to some police departments, the importance of physical fitness is not as important today as it once was. Many departments have eliminated pre-employment physical testing and have replaced the academy’s physical agility tests, with their emphasis on push-ups and pull-ups not directly relevant to the job health and fitness tests (Martin and Jurik, 77).
However, there are still some police forces across Canada that put a lot of emphasis on physical strength. A report from the RCMP showed that close to half of the female applicants failed the physical requirements. This could be due to the fact that physical fitness is not at a set level for the police forces across Canada. Some of the forces are more demanding than others.
Therefore, men and women are different when it comes to physical fitness and psychology’s. This makes it hard for administrators to educate the police force according to these differences. It is a matter that needs to be dealt with but not in a way which makes the males feel that the females are getting special treatment. In addition, the females must not feel singled out.
The issue of gender can also have an effect on what work assignments women will receive when working as a police officer. Women are sometimes kept from the busiest beats. They are forced from patrolling the streets into a more feminine job. It is an ongoing cycle because if a woman is taken off of a patrol. She will never gain the experience she needs to meet the standards of the police force. Some assignments are even prohibited to women. For example, the Chicago Police Department’s rules prohibits women from working on the wagon (that takes offenders to jail), which results in some men’s criticizing them for shirking their fair share of unpleasant assignments (Martin and Jurik, 80).
However, statistics show that today men and women are pretty much equally represented in the different units on the force. The per capita percentage of men and women are equal when looking at the patrol and investigation units. Women are slightly over represented in the community relations, technical and administrative units. The traditionally feminine jobs are still being held by the females. However, women are also finding careers in the traditionally masculine jobs as well.
Society forms ideas and norms of what a female career should be like. Society expects people to conform to these ideas. Female officers are still supposed to have a sense of femininity. On the other hand, law enforcement is generally viewed by society as a masculine job. The crime fighter view of police work is seen as masculine which can make it hard sometimes for women to fulfill. However, the service view of police work is seen as feminine. Some females join notoriously masculine units such as the SWAT team. One problem with this is that they feel that they have to conform to the masculine side of the job but also the feminine side of society. These two things can come into conflict, which can sometimes lead females to take a more traditional job for themselves.
Female police officers are sometimes encouraged by other members of the police force, to take assignments that would suit their gender. “Some male officers believe that women will not be able to handle violent encounters nor provide adequate assistance to male partners, that they will be injured more easily, or use firearms excessively”(Cohn, 198). This can make it hard to pursue a career you want, when you do not have support from the people you work with. It is because of this that some females decide to leave their unit. In addition, some people just do not fit into a specific unit because of their personalities. However, some women feel like they do not fit in because of their gender.
Female police officers are also looked at differently by the public because society is biased in how it views people.
“Interactions between women officers and men
citizens are problematic because police expect
to take control of situations and be shown deference
by citizens; men may differ to the office but
resist being controlled by or differential to a
woman”(Martin & Jorik, 91).
Some people in society judge people by their race or gender. This can cause the public to judge a female officer by her race or gender also and this can cause problems because some people give certain races or different genders more respect than others. Some people may see a male officer as more authoritative than a female officer and this gender difference could alter a citizens attitude. Thus, some citizen’s still do not feel comfortable with women being in a controlling and authoritative position. In one study that was done both men
“It has been observed that, in general, women leave the field more often than men”(Lebeuf & McLean, 9). One RCMP report showed that female officers quit the force at twice the rate of men. Police forces want to increase female representation, but with the high turnover rate, it is not working as well as they had planned. This could be due to a traditionally masculine job forcing out feminine officers. It could also be due to police forces hiring incompetent people to fill a mandate. Either way, the number of female leaving law enforcement is exponential compared to that of male turnaround.
Sexual harassment is sometimes a problem on a police force also. “Six out of every ten female Mounties surveyed say that they have experience some sort of sexual harassment in the force, says an internal RCMP study”(Canadian Business & Culture, 26). Many women have to put up with men making suggestive comments to them. The females can either make a formal complaint, not say anything so as not to cause a problem, or ask for a transfer. Some women have taken cases in the courts and have come away with large settlements. Others just simply leave the force. If women are in traditionally masculine jobs such as patrolling, they must conform to the masculinity of the job as well as stay feminine so they will not receive criticism for being unwoman like. This can be very hard.
The erratic hours of patrol assignments make it hard for the women who are largely responsible for the child care obligations in the family. “Only if administrators understand women’s dual role responsibilities and implement policies that allow them to meet both sets of obligation will the police service retain its women”(Lunneborg, 147). This is one of the reasons that women take administration jobs. If a female officer becomes pregnant, she must leave her patrol assignment. Traditionally, she will also be the main care giver after the birth, which will force her to take a leave of absence from work. This is another example of how traditional gender views decide what a proper career for a female is.
Today female police officers have equal opportunity to join any unit. Statistics show that they have. However, many women have stuck to traditionally feminine jobs. They are still sometimes singled out as a female and are forced to leave a unit. Sexual harassment is still an issue in law enforcement today, but, officers are being educated on this issue in law enforcement today, but, officers are being educated on this issue. The number of harassment’s have dropped over the years. Over the past 30 years, women have gained a lot of respect in law enforcement.
The Future of Women Policing
Today, women make up only 9 - 12% of the police force here in Canada (Class notes Feb. 8/00) This is a very small percentage considering fifty-one percent of Canada’s population is female and the other forty-nine percent is male. Therefore, women are not even close to being represented equally according to the percent of Canadian population that women consist of. Thus, one of the goals for the police force and women should be to hire more women into the police forces across Canada. This way women could be as equally represented in the police as they are in the population. However, it is very true that this will likely never happen because they would have to quit hiring male in order for this to happen. Affirmative Action is now trying to hire more women and minorities to make up for the under-representation of women in the police force. Hopefully, this will allow for more women to work in the police force. Thus, somewhat equaling out the number of men and women that will work in the police force in the future.
Another goal for women in policing for the future should be to have a greater representation in authoritative and administrative jobs within the police force (eg. police chief, deputy chief etc.) The reality is that the majority of these positions are run by men and that there are very few women police chiefs along with deputy chiefs (class notes Feb 7/00). “The work performed and success achieved by women in the various functions occupied show beyond any doubt, that women are capable of performing all the tasks related to police work (LeBeuf & McLean, 113) The truth is that it is not only the area of police work that has an under representation of women in authoritative and commanding positions. However, if women were given more chances to prove themselves in the area of police work and given more chances to take on leading roles, the police force would most likely not be disappointed.
Women have been a very positive factor and influence in policing. All of the stereotypes and biases that go with women and policing need to be evaluated and asked the question if they are right or correct. Women police officers have had one major impact on policing and that is positive. “Police services must realize that female members have had and continue to have a positive impact on Canadian police services” (LeBeuf & McLean. Pg.179) This is just some proof that women and policing are closely associated with each other. Hopefully, in the future, female policing will be given more positive stereotypes and these stereotypes will be more widely accepted by not only the police force itself but society also.
As you can see, women have come a long way in the area of policing. It took them a long time to get to where they are today. However, all of this did not come without a lot of fights, battles and struggles that had to be won. Perhaps you could say that the smallest step that they had to overcome was to get accepted into the police force itself. On the other hand, you could also say that the biggest part of their struggle might lay ahead of them. It has been noted that not only society but the police force itself has had a hard time viewing both men and women as being equally capable of fulfilling the role of a police officer. Therefore, women of today and the future who enter into the police force need to prove to both society and the police force that they are capable of handling every job that is associated with police work. This includes such jobs as police chiefs, police sergeants and deputy police chiefs. However, they will only be able to prove themselves to the public and the police force if they are given the same chances as men to obtain these positions!
Cohn, Alvin W. 1978. The Future of Policing. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage publications Inc.
Hernandez, E. 1982. Females in Law Enforcement. Femininity, Competence, Attraction, and Work Acceptance. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 9, 1:13-34
Kearney, Katherine G. White & Thomas. Men & Women at Work
LeBeuf, Marcel-Eugene & McLean, Julia. 1997. Women in Policing in Canada: Beyond the Year 2000-Its Challenges. Ottawa, On: Canadian Police College.
Lunneborg, Patricia W. 1989. Women Police Officers. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas Publishers.
Martin, Susan Ehrlich, and Jurik, Nancy C. Doing Justice, Doing Gender. Sage Publications
“RCMP Having Trouble Getting and Keeping Female Mounties”. Canadian Business & Culture . pg.11. August, 1996.
“Survey Suggests Majority of Female Mounties Have Been Sexually Harassed”. Canadian Business & Culture. pg.26. September, 1996.