Womenin law enforcement were motivated by the sense that women advocatescontributed a positive and feminine approach to solving society’sissues. As early as the 1910s, there were few female policeofficers, but their roles were limited. In most cases, they were incharge of imprisoned women and the children. In 1845, the (AFMR)American Female Moral Reform campaigned for matrons’ positions,where two women were hired in two of the New York’s jails. Later,the AFRM campaigned for a matron’s position to be created in thepolice station, which was declined by the police department. MaryOwens was the first female in the U.S to be appointed as a policeofficer from the Chicago Police Department in the year 1893 (Gibbs,Ruiz, & Klapper-Lehman, 2015). Mary Owens was a widow whose husband was a police officer in thesame department. Occasionally, the department could recruit widowsas a way of compensating the loss of their husbands. Mary worked forthe department for 30 years, where she mostly handled casescomprising children and women. Notably, she was the first female inthe police department to be given authority to arrest and detain. In1905, another woman by the name Lola Baldwin was recruited in thepolice department and became the first lady to be sworn as a policeofficer in the United States. She was also in charge of socialworkers with the help of Portland, during the Lewis and ClarkExposition (Nixon, n.d). The city leaders felt there was a need tosafeguard the moral well-being of the young women of Portland andthus, they created a department of public security for young womenand girls, and Baldwin was appointed as director of the program.
In1910, Los Angeles Police Department swore in another woman by thename Alice Wells and issued her with a badge number 1. Later, Wellsestablished an International Association for Policewomen. Further,Margret Adams was sworn in as the first female deputy sheriff in 1912by the Los Angeles Sheriff Department.By then, Margret Adams onlyresponsibility was processing of evidence. Women continued to workin the police department with limited responsibilities until theWorld War II and Great Depression in the 1930s and 1940s (Smith,2015). The two events increased the women aggressiveness to look forjobs, which gave them an opportunity to compete with men in thepolice department. Nonetheless, women were recruited into supportroles like desk-bound and dispatch duties.
Thewar began in the 1950s when women in police department moved intomale-dominated roles and started fighting for promotion. AnInternational Association Women Police group was founded which foughtaggressively to support women in the police department. In the1960s, women were given more responsibilities to serve as undercovercrimefighters in an attempt to fight illegal sale of drugs andprostitution. Nonetheless, a significant transformation in thepolice department occurred in 1960 when the police department ofIndianapolis Metropolitan issue forty-seven patrol cars to BettyBlankenship and Elizabeth Robinson. By 1970s, the members of thepublic were increasingly accepting the role of women in the policedepartment, which enabled them to obtain jobs in higher ranks (Smith,2015).In 1972, Title IX of the Civil Rights Act opened moreopportunities for women when it prohibited women discrimination bygender. In the same year, Susan Malone and JoAnne Misko became thefirst women to be sworn in as FBI agents. In the 1980s, womenstarted to penetrate more into the police department when PennyHarrington became the Chief of Portland Police Bureau. The trend ofwomen being recruited into the police department continued to raisewomen in each year. One of the major factors that facilitated theincrease is the establishment of an organized group that supportedwomen. These groups included National Center for Women and Policing,and National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives(NAWLEE).
PolicingWomen Officers Today
Intoday’s law enforcement community, women are still undervalued andunder-used. In other words, the department has not realized the fullpotential of women despite the significant changes they have broughtto the office. According to research that was conducted by criminaljustice school, women represent only 13 percent of the entireworkforce (Eisenberg, n.d ). The researchers claim that many ofthese women are from the Durban population. Moreover, out of the 13percent, only 5 percent are from African American group. Further,only 9.6 percent of 15 percent of the women are in a high positionsuch as lieutenants and sergeants.
Inthe 21stcentury, the role of women in policing has continued to evolve as thedepartment has realized that female officers are bringing new ideasand abilities to the profession. For instance, women are more likelyto use a confrontational style compared to their male counterparts(Eisenberg, n.d). Nevertheless, they are less likely to use excessiveforce to law violators. Female police have a unique ability to showempathy and effectively dealing with complicated situations. Inother words, female police officers have played an integral role inshaping the profession.
IssuesFacing Women Police Officers Today
Thechallenges that female law enforcers face in the line of duty aremainly rooted in discriminations by gender. It is evident thatpolicewomen are physically weak and more diminutive compared to theirmale partners, which can be a great challenge when dealing with malesuspects. However, they are still discriminated by their colleaguesand superiors especially when it comes to a job promotion.Apparently, women have fought against discrimination for manydecades, but the issue has become the order of the day.
Also,law enforcement communities have set qualifications that highly favormen. Similarly, police departments continue to hire people withmilitary bases, a field that is dominated by men. Unfortunately, thedepartments have not intensified their efforts to attract competentfemale candidates. Furthermore, female police officer experiencessexual harassment at the workplace and when pursuing male suspects. Sexual harassment at a workplace has a negative implication on anyfemale worker and can be a “career killer” (Grace, 2012). Womenwho go through sexual harassment prefer resigning from the job ratherthan going through the humiliation.
Underthe conventional policing organization structure, successful lawenforcers were considered to be masculine and authoritative in nature(Grace, 2012). Thus, the policing structures create a more masculinepolice culture. The culture may be unfriendly to women, allowing mento make a justification by physical ability.
Recommendationsto Address the Challenges
Toaddress the issue of sexual harassment against female officers, itwould be plausible for law enforcement agencies to take cases onsexual harassment more serious and impose heavy punishments for theperpetrators. It is evident that no police officer would like thestigma of handling a complaint filed under sexual assault. It isimportant for the department to come up with a clear procedure ofinvestigation and handling cases reported in relation to sexualharassment. It is also advisable for female enforcers to beaccompanied by male counterparts when pursuing a suspect.
Theissue of comparing male and female police officers is an issue thatbrings women in this profession down. Law enforcement agencies shouldacknowledge that there exist differences between men and women. Thephysical strength should not be a base of discrimination since womenhave other strengths that men do not possess. Additionally, it isimportant to note that psychological and biological differences canbe transformed into something positive and improve the performance ofthe entire department.
Tochange the traditional policing structure, law enforcement agenciesshould create interactions with the local communities. Therefore,Community Policing Organization Structures should be put in placewhere members of public and police officers work together. Thestructure should fully embrace the role of women in the department.
Inconclusion, it is plausible to conclude that women have a role toplay in policing. In the earlier days, women were not easily acceptedin policing, and the few who were hired were given limitedresponsibilities. For instance, their major obligation was to lookafter the juveniles and women prisoners. The number of women inpolicing started to increase through the formation of associationsand groups that supported women. The number of women in lawenforcement departments started increasing in the 21stcentury, where they are given more responsibilities, and been hiredin supervisory roles. Nonetheless, just like in any other sector,women are still under-represented in law enforcement sector.Moreover, many people believe that it is a male-dominated career andwomen are not fit for the job. The women who are in the sector facenumerous challenges and need to be addressed. However, the role ofwomen in the police department is still evolving, and more changeswill be experienced.
Eisenberg,A. (n.d.). Women in law enforcement. Retrieved October from AllCriminal Justice Schools:http://www.allcriminaljusticeschools.com/law-enforcement/women-in-law-enforcement/
Gibbs,J. C., Ruiz, J., & Klapper-Lehman, S. A. (2015). Sugar and spice…and a badge and a gun A cross-national descriptive comparison ofwomen’s involvement in policing. InternationalJournal of Police Science & Management, 17(3),155-163..
Grace,L. (2012, May). Solutions to common barriers for female officers.Retrieved, from Lawand Orderhttps://www.hendonpub.com/law_and_order/articles/2012/05/solutions_to_common_barriers_for_female_officers
Nixon,C. (n.d.). The history of women in the police service. Womenand the Law, 225-228.
Smith,B. B. (2015, June 30). Police history: The evolution of women inAmerican law enforcement. Retrieved from PoliceOne:https://www.policeone.com/police-history/articles/8634189-Police-History-The-evolution-of-women-in-American-law-enforcement/