When someone mentions law enforcement, people usually invasion a male figure, but like countless other professions that’s considered to be male dominated, the law enforcement field and its addition of women, is an ever-developing matter. Today we are realizing the rewards of having both male police officers and women police officers working together. However, it took time for this concept to progress.
The addition of women police officers in the law enforcement field has received assorted reactions from the public and police officers alike. I will examine the history of women police officers as well as explore the development and need for women police officers for a functioning police department and why the addition of women police officers should be accepted to guarantee a diverse police culture.
The law enforcement field experienced growing pains as it worked on protecting its citizens. Arguably, one of the most apparent changes is the growing presence of women in the law enforcement field. In the beginning, women who were employed in law enforcement could only work in the office as matrons, they weren’t even permitted to wear police uniforms. Their work often fell along the lines of social work duties, working primarily with women and children, often hired by departments after being widowed from a fallen officer. The actual policing of citizens was left to the men.
Over the course of many years, and on a fraction on the scale today, women struggle for acknowledgement and advancement in police departments. For example, the first sworn female police officer from Portland Oregon, Lola Baldwin, started off with minimal responsibilities. Her job duties were largely of a social work nature, such as protecting young women working at the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in 1905. Fortunately, in 1908, her success in that task led her to be sworn in as a fellow officer with the authority to conduct arrests. (Bennett, 2018)
Following suit, in 1910, the Los Angeles Police Department swore in Alice Wells as the country’s first “policewoman” and assigned her to their Juvenile department. There she was required to handle all female and juvenile cases, in addition to investigating social conditions that led women and children to become involved in crime. (Bennett, 2018)
In 1912, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department swore in Margaret Adams. The position was offered by her brother-in-law Sheriff William A. Hammel. She stated she would only accept the offer if Sheriff Hammel would agree to deputize her. Sheriff Hammel eventually agreed and soon after Margaret was the nations’ first female deputy sheriff. However, her responsibilities typically involved evidence processing. (Walker, 2006).
During the Great Depression and World War II, approximately 1930-1940s, women progression in law enforcement came to a halt, do to having to directly compete with men for jobs. Though they were able to continue to work in law enforcement, it was more in the support capacity with roles such as dispatch and other desk oriented responsibilities. (FMFNC, 2013)
In the 1950s women in law enforcement moved from behind the desk and out onto the streets with the male police officers. There are many causes for this advancement but most of the credit goes to the formation of the International Association of Women Police in 1956 and police departments increased battle with prostitution and illegal drug sales in the 1960s. This new war on drugs allowed for the expansion and need for more female police officers to assist with specialized operations, such as prostitution, narcotic sales, etc. (FMFNC, 2013)
In the 1970s the existence of women police officers in the law enforcement field became progressively recognized overall by the public because in 1972 the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was executed, prohibiting gender discrimination in public agencies, police departments alike, breaking the glass ceiling to further develop opportunities for women in law enforcement, later establishing several law enforcement associations devoted to women. (FMFNC, 2013)
Fast forward to today, women police officers have many opportunities within the law enforcement field. While it’s not at the same rate as men, women are promoted to higher command staff within departments, they are sought after on many specialized units, and they are more respected and appreciated overall.
While women have made great strides in the law enforcement field and have brought a unique face to policing since the early days, the last few decades proved that women police officers still have many obstacles to overcome to be fully acknowledged and respected in the various capacities of policing.
Even though some remain skeptical to the idea, there is an ongoing discussion over the idea to raise the amount of women in the law enforcement field because people are beginning to see the many benefits of having an increased amount of women in their departments or specialized units. The law enforcement community, and the public, acknowledge that women are capable of dealing with high stress situations, violent criminals, and violent calls just like their male counter parts.
Some would even go as far to say that women police officers are more successful than male police officers when it comes to managing suspects. Women police officers are able to deescalate situations with male offenders easier than most male police officers because most male offenders don’t feel like they need to be aggressive with women police officers. So ultimately the use of women police officers would decrease incidents involving the of use of force because women police officers are more inclined to treat offenders with respect.
The early idealist behind women’s duties within the law enforcement community was not too far off in their thinking, they just needed to see the bigger picture with their thoughts like law enforcement agencies in todays age. It’s okay to assign women police officers to units such as juvenile, domestic violence, etc. The victims of domestic violence incidents are largely women. Managing incidents involving crime against women has remained a challenge in the law enforcement field.
The addition of more women police officers to departments or specialized units would benefit how victims are handled, increasing the probability of solving crimes or retrieving information through victim cooperation because women usually feel more comfortable speaking with a female police officer instead of a male police officer during these incidents. So, putting women police officers in those units in that fashion is great because there are plenty of benefits for victims. Putting women police officers behind desks and tasking them with duties that are deemed easier because they are a woman is another story.
Body size and strength should not be the only attributes examined to determine somebody’s aptitude to join and achieve in law enforcement departments or specialized units. Force and coercion are not practical or legal ways to interrogate suspects anymore. Women are effective at retrieving information from individuals without using force. Employing more women police officers will decrease lawsuits and complaints related with the use of force, that’s often accredited to male police officers.
While it’s true the public has embraced women police officers, the acceptance of women police officers by their male counterparts falls short of the public’s appreciation. Women police officers struggle with exclusion and aggravation from their male counterparts. Although women police officers are exposed to the equal work-related trauma as their male counterparts, they aren’t viewed as capable and may undergo role conflict. For example, when a unit is performing a search warrant, they may position the female police officer in the rear of the entry formation or station her outside to watch the perimeter because she’s viewed as uncapable of successfully performing any other duties.
This view of women police officers is a skewed one. Women police officers don’t call for help more or less than male police officers. They can deal with hostile situations as well as their male counterparts. Part of their success in that capacity is due to their appearance. Women police officers are often perceived as a lesser threat in serious situations helping to avoid injury to everyone involved. While women police officers arrest fewer subjects, they typically don’t have credibility issues in a court setting.
In conclusion, the progression of women in law enforcement constantly develops as people acknowledge that women police officers bring certain abilities to the profession. In addition to their skills to deploy a less aggressive approach than their male counterparts, they are proficient in implementing compassion to effectively dissolve tough situations like disturbance calls. The skill set of women police officers balance those of their male counterparts and when dispatched together, male and female police officers produce well rounded tactical and investigative advantages.
These advantages benefit the profession and those they serve and protect. Rising the amount of women in law enforcement would not only help the department work more effectively, it would also help recover the stained image law enforcement has gotten from years of scandals, not limited to instances of excessive force while dealing with subjects. The public would consistently view law enforcement officials as well rounded when it comes to the needs of the public.