Status Reports Women in Policing 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001
|Chief Penny Eileen Harrington|
June 1998 Revised, National Center for Women & Policing, a division of the
Feminist Majority Foundation
In order to monitor the growth of women in law enforcement, the National Center for Women & Policing has completed a study on the Status of Women in the largest law enforcement agencies in the country. This report examines the gains and gaps in the numbers of women in policing, and provides a picture of where women are in policing today. The report also presents the major barriers preventing women from increasing their numbers in law enforcement and lists the detrimental effects of continued under-representation of women in police departments. Since its inception in early 1995, the National Center for Women & Policing has been a leading force behind increasing the numbers of women in policing. The positive impact of women in policing, including the reduction of police
brutality, the increased efficacy in police response to domestic violence, and the increased emphasis on conflict resolution over force, mandates that we strive for gender balance in policing. But, as this study shows, the increase of women in law enforcement remains stuck at an alarmingly slow rate. At the present rate of growth, women will not achieve equality in law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, the data is clear that there has been progress only where women law enforcement officers and women's organizations have taken legal action to fight the discriminatory hiring and promotion practices and where court ordered consent decrees have forced agencies to increase the numbers of women or minorities hired and promoted.
Among the largest law enforcement agencies in the country in 1997, women comprise only 13.63% of all sworn law enforcement positions; 5.5% are held by women of color.1 in the last seven years, women have increased their representation in sworn law enforcement ranks by only 2.7 percentage points, from 10.6% in 1990 to 13.3% in 1997. The gains for women in policing are so slow that, at the current rate of growth, women will never reach equal representation or gender balance in law
enforcement agencies. Women hold only 6.5% of Top Command law enforcement positions, 9.2% of
Supervisory positions and 14.6% of Line Operation positions.2 Women of color hold 2.2% of Top Command law enforcement positions, 3.5% of Supervisory positions and 6.3% of Line Operation positions. Seven out of the 10 departments with the largest percentage of women in sworn officer positions are under or have recently been under consent decrees to hire women or minorities. This demonstrates that nearly all of the largest gains have been achieved only as a result of lawsuits initiated by women in law enforcement and women's organizations to force these agencies to hire more women or minorities. More than 20% of agencies report no women in Top Command law enforcement positions and nearly 80% of agencies have no women of color in the highest ranks.
Eight agencies report 20% or more women holding Top Command law enforcement
posts, while only one agency reports over 20% of women of color in Top Command
posts. Women hold 64.2% of lower-paid civilian law enforcement jobs. State agencies trail local agencies by a wide margin. State agencies report 6.3% sworn women law enforcement officers, while municipal agencies report 15.5%, followed closely by county agencies with 13.3%.
1 Based on reporting by 106 of the largest 125 state, county and municipal law enforcement agencies. This report was originally issues in April, 1998, with a slightly lower number of reporting agencies. Revisions in the calculations are reflected in this report, although overall percentages are virtually unchanged and trends and conclusions are unaffected by the revised numbers.
2 For this study, the sworn law enforcement positions have been grouped as follows: Top Command includes Chiefs, Deputy Chiefs, Commanders and Captains; Supervisory includes Lieutenants and Sergeants; Line Operation includes Detectives and Police Officers.
BARRIERS TO WOMEN IN POLICING
Study after study concludes that the single largest barrier to increasing the numbers of women in policing is the attitudes and behavior of their male colleagues. Nationwide studies consistently find that discrimination and sexual harassment are pervasive in police departments and that supervisors and commanders not only tolerate such practices by others, but are frequently perpetrators themselves. Hostile environments and systemic discrimination keep women from joining police agencies in more significant numbers and from promoting up the ranks to policy-making positions, thus perpetuating a style of policing which is outdated, ineffective, and enormously costly to communities.
BIASED ENTRY TESTS.
Entry exams with their emphasis on upper body strength favor men and wash out women -- despite studies showing physical prowess to be unrelated to job performance. In fact, no research has shown that strength is related to an individual's ability to manage successfully a dangerous situation. While
discriminatory height requirements were finally discarded in the early 1970's, today's tests continue to bar highly qualified women from entering policing.
WIDESPREAD DISCRIMINATION ON THE JOB.
Once on the job women are frequently intimidated, harassed, and maliciously thwarted, especially as they move up the ranks. In Los Angeles, male officers formed a clandestine organization within the LAPD called "Men Against Women" whose purpose is to wage an orchestrated campaign of ritual harassment, intimidation and criminal activity against women officers -- just one example of the kind of organized harassment women experience in law enforcement. A large number of women across the country have been driven from their jobs in law enforcement due to unpunished, unchecked and unrelenting abuse.
RECRUITMENT POLICIES THAT FAVOR MEN.
Law enforcement agencies continue to heavily recruit ex-military and at military bases that are disproportionately populated by men. Recruitment departments have not adequately intensified their efforts to attract qualified women candidates or to portray policing as a profession that welcomes women.
OUTDATED MODEL OF POLICING.
Law enforcement agencies continue to promote an outdated model of policing by rewarding tough, aggressive even violent behavior. This "paramilitary" style of policing results in poor community relations, increased citizen complaints, and more violent confrontations and deaths. Redefining law enforcement to a community-oriented model of policing would attract more women who reject
policing's trademark aggressive, authoritarian image.
UNDER-REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN HURTS LAW ENFORCEMENT.
National and international research shows conclusively that increasing the numbers of women on police departments measurably reduces police violence and improves police effectiveness and service to communities. The studies also show that women officers respond more effectively than their male counterparts to violence against women, which accounts for up to 50% of all calls to
police. Yet this record stands in stark contrast to women's dramatic under-representation in police departments where they make up 13.3% of sworn officers nationwide.
ESCALATING COST OF POLICE BRUTALITY.
Study after study shows that women officers are not as likely as their male counterparts to be involved in the use of excessive force. As a result, the under-representation of women in policing is contributing to and exacerbating law enforcement's excessive force problems. The actual and potential liability for cities and states is staggering, with lawsuits due to excessive force by male law enforcement personnel costing millions of dollars of taxpayer money every year.
INEFFECTIVE RESPONSE TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.
Domestic violence is the single major cause of injury to women and yet the majority of these violent crimes against women go unreported and uninvestigated by law enforcement agencies. At the same time, law enforcement officers who commit domestic abuse are routinely ignored or exonerated, often leading to tragic results. With studies showing that as many as 40% of male law enforcement officers commit domestic abuse, more women law enforcement officers can serve as a strong force to promote a more effective response by agencies to domestic violence cases that occur both within police departments and community-wide.
DAMAGED POLICE-COMMUNITY RELATIONS.
Women favor a community-oriented approach to policing which is rooted in strong interpersonal and communication skills and which emphasizes conflict resolution over force. Women tend to rely on their verbal skills over employing the use of force. With greater numbers of women, this highly
effective model of policing will increasingly improve the public image of law enforcement agencies as well as have a positive impact on police-community relations nationwide.
COSTLY SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND SEXUAL DISCRIMINATI0N LAWSUITS.
Law enforcement agencies have tolerated workplace environments that are openly hostile and discriminatory towards female employees, forcing women to bring successful lawsuits against their agencies. The ongoing serious under-representation of women in policing leads to greater numbers of incidents of sexual harassment and discrimination. Increasing the number of women, treating women equally on the job and holding women to fair hiring and promotion practices will reduce the enormous costs resulting from widespread lawsuits.
THE STATUS OF WOMEN IN POLICING, 1997: SURVEY FINDINGS
Over the last 26 years, women have increased their representation in sworn law enforcement positions to 13.3% in 1997, from a low of 2% in 1972.3 This 11.3 point percentage gain has been spread over the intervening years, or at an annual rate of gain of less than one-half of 1 percentage point per year. In 1978, women in the largest municipal agencies commanded 4.2% of the sworn law
enforcement positions, up 2.2 points from 1972. Nearly ten years later, in 1988, that number had barely doubled to 8.8%4, and it was not until 1993 that agencies on average had reached a major benchmark, crossing into the double digits. In 1997, the rate of increase remains glacial. Data from 1990 to 1997 demonstrates a paltry 2.7 point increase (See Graph 1), which is approximately the same rate of change that was recorded from 1972 to 1978, a comparable year spread. With very few exceptions, women remain underrepresented among patrol officers and are virtually absent from the decision-making ranks and positions of authority in police departments across the country.
Source: NCWP Report, 1997.
Copyright 1998, The Feminist Majority Foundation
Status Reports Women in Policing 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001