Women in Policing

Running Head: Women in Policing Women in Policing Derrick Jones University of Phoenix Women in Policing Law enforcement is one of the oldest professions in this country. Law enforcement is a profession that has been primarily dominated by men since its inception more than one hundred years ago. This paper will discuss in detail the emergence of women in the profession of law enforcement.

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The author will discuss some of the contemporary issues that face women in the performance of their duties to include treatment by their male counterparts, the perception of society on women in policing, and the role of education which leads to women in positions of leadership. The author will provide a history, present, and predictions for the future of women in policing. In the early 1800’s women were motivated by a sense that women activists contributed a positive, feminine approach to addressing society problems.

Throughout the country, women were being hired to protect and manage incarcerated women and juveniles. In 1893, the Chicago Police Department appointed Mary Owens to the rank of patrolman. Owens was a widow of an officer of the police department, and occasionally the department would hire widows as a type of death benefit for their husbands. Owens worked for the Chicago Police Department for 30 years, and assisted with cases that involved women and children. Mary Owens was the first woman to receive arrest powers (Harrington, 2009).

In 1905, Lola Baldwin was given police powers and put in charge of a group of social workers in order to aid the Portland, Oregon Police Department during the Lewis and Clark Exposition. Baldwin was the first women to be sworn in as a police officer in the United States. In 1910, Alice Stebbin Wells was the first woman to be called a policewoman when she joined the Los Angeles Police Department. Historians disagree when it comes to who actually is the “first woman police officer” in the United States.

One side believes that Baldwin was the first police officer, while the other half believes that Wells was the first woman police officer in the United States. The indifferences lie in the job performed by Baldwin and Wells. From the onset, the job description of a women officer has been varied and has overlapped with duties today considered to be social work rather than law enforcement. Women worked as matrons, social workers, and for private entities in capacities that mostly involved positions of power for the moral betterment of society.

None of these women had the same or equal status as the men who were working as police officers during that time. The women of that era did not settle for that and continued to push for opportunities for women seeking a career in law enforcement. These efforts made inroads in the struggle for women equality, and in 1915 the International Association of Policewomen was created (Harrington, 2009). The IAP’s primary goal was to help organize the wide range of support for women choosing a career in policing.

During this time period Americans across the country accepted women in policing do to their inherent nurturing qualities that could be focused on fixing societal problems associated with moral weaknesses. Because of this fact several women’s bureaus were started across the country in police stations, and these bureaus handled cases involving women and children, such as runaways, shoplifting, and prostitution. While women have been part of the nation’s law enforcement community for over a hundred years, they traditionally were given assignments that were consider “women’s work. to include clerical duties, working with youth, or guarding female prisoners. Working on the front line fighting crime, was considered man’s work; and it was generally believed that police administrators had serious issues with a woman’s ability to perform well in violent situations. This was one of the contemporary issues that women faced in the profession of law enforcement, but in 1972, Congress passed an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting state and local agencies from job discrimination based on gender.

This meant that unless there were valid occupational reasons police departments across the country were required to hire women and assign women to jobs which included patrol, on an equal basis with men (Police Foundations, 2009). Once hired by the department the biggest barrier that faces women in policing is the attitudes and behavior of their male colleagues. Women find themselves being discriminated against, and victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.

This type of pervasive behavior was common place within the police departments, and was not only tolerated by supervisors and commanders by others but they were frequently perpetrators themselves. Women were frequently intimated, harassed, and maliciously hindered, especially when they began to excel and move up in the ranks. Today, there are approximately 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States at all levels of government and about 880,000 full time sworn law enforcement officers with women representing fewer than 15% (Tyre, 2004).

Even though women represent fewer than 15% of the law enforcement officers in the United States they continue to fight for equal rights when it comes to supervisory positions. “Out of the 18,000 police departments in the country, only about 200 mostly small town forces and campus police departments are currently headed by women” (Tyre, 2004). In February 2004, Boston’s Mayor Thomas Menino, swore in the 38th police commissioner of the Boston Police Department, and for the first time in the 374 year history of the department the police chief is a woman.

Kathleen O’Toole, a former patrol officer turned lawyer, was the right person for the job according to Menino (Tyre, 2004). Boston joined three other major cities whose chiefs are women and they include Detroit, Milwaukee, and San Francisco. Criminal justice experts believe that these appointments could be the sign of a major turning point in the struggle for equality for women in law enforcement. The appointment of women to supervisory positions within the police department is directly attributed to the ever changing culture of policing. Police department heads are now expected to be more like CEO’s than the toughest guy on the block.

Police chiefs are expect to be able to oversee large budgets, negotiate management problems, and set sound departmental policy. Modern chiefs are expected to be proficient at marketing and public relations as well. This means that the more education an officer has the better chance he or she will have of being promoted and advancing to the top of the department. Most major police departments nationwide require at least two years of college for patrol officers and four year degrees for the rank of lieutenant or above. With this being the case women are advancing do to the high levels of education.

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