Women Today Are Under-represented In The Police Force
Alice Stebbins Wells was the first female police officer hired by the Los Angeles police department in 1910 (Walker & Katz, 2005). In the early years of women police officers women were hired as social workers for juveniles, as matrons, dispatchers, and to help guard female inmates.
Law enforcement as a career has been increasingly more popular for women in recent years; however, the numbers have not increased greatly. In 2001, women accounted for only 12.7% of all sworn law enforcement positions in large agencies (with 100 or more sworn personnel) a figure that is less than four percentage points higher than in 1990, when women comprised 9% of sworn officers. These figures indicate that women only account for 11.2% of all sworn law enforcement personnel in the U.S. dramatically less than the participation of women in the whole of the labor force at 46.5% (National Center for Women in Policing [NCWP], 2001).
One obstacle that women have always faced, and still due at times is discrimination in the hiring practice. Many of the original height and weight prerequisites were discriminatory and had been in place to discriminate against women (Potts, 1983). Potts (1983) wrote that in Alabama and Maryland, standards had been purposely set to exclude 81% of females between 18 and 34 years because administrative personnel did not believe that women should be police officers.
Hiring discrimination started to decrease with the creation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, then the Crime Control Act of 1973, followed. The final Act to discourage discrimination was the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1974. These acts dissuaded hiring discrimination but once hired there ability to perform the job was questioned.
Weisert (1987) noted that state police officers opposition of female officers was not so much based on the officers field performance but more so on the fact that they did not want to work with them or accept them as equals.
It is a fact that women officers make less arrest than men officers however, the arrest made by female officers tend to hold up better in court that male officers (Koenig, 1978).
Female officers do not appear to call in for support or assistance any more than their male counterparts. Yet they have been found to be as capable as male officers in dealing with violent or angry situations (Grennan, 1987). Evidence shows that because their appearance is less dangerous women officers have an advantage in dangerous situations (Sherman, 1975) resulting in avoiding injury to all parties involved (Grennan, 1987).
The acceptance of women on patrol seems to have been embraced better by the public than by male officers Koenig, 1978). Female officers have reported feelings of isolation and perceived hostilities from co-workers and have been suggested as potential problems (Wexler & Logan, 1983).