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Increasing Women's Numbers and
Influence in Policing


The Immense Benefits to Communities, Summary of Research
Eleven Lessons Learned, Eleven Strategies Forward
Tear Down That Wall!
and Other Pivotal Changes for Increasing Women's Numbers and Influence in Policing
Sample Letters and Tips for Obtaining Sex and Race Statistics from Law Enforcement



How police respond to violence against women is pivotal to women's freedom around the world. When women go to police for help, the individual officers who respond are in the all-powerful position of being her sole gatekeeper to protection and justice. An officer can choose to free the woman from the violence by fully investigating and enforcing the laws. Or, the officer can choose to lock her tighter into the violence by refusing to properly investigate and by withholding their critical policing powers.

Police have enormous unchecked discretion in making these decisions, and victims have no reliable means for holding the officers to account. Raising the stakes even higher is the fact that when police do fail to respond properly, as too often happens, there is nowhere else for her to turn. The police, and only the police, have the power and authority to step in and put the violent perpetrator under control.

Around the world, police make these decisions in the most critical moments of women's lives literally hundreds of thousands of times a day. In the U.S. alone violence against women calls make up over a third of all calls to police. Taken together, the sum force of all these police decisions determines to a great degree whether or not the world's women live in freedom, or whether we continue to live under the constant tyranny and threat of male violence, a one-sided reign of violence that constricts every other freedom women have fought so hard to gain. It doesn't matter how strong your violence against women laws may be, if police fail to enforce those laws, women are no better off than if the laws didn't exist at all.

It is an outrage that these pivotal powers over women's lives everywhere remain in the hands of one of the most male dominated and sexist institutions in the world. It's not just that police officers are overwhelmingly male. They are males who have been selected according to outdated patriarchal standards, trained in military style academies, and then employed in the insular, hyper-male enclaves of police departments where anti-women biases are deeply embedded in the history, policies, and structures. Indeed, it's hard to imagine a class of people who could be more ill-recruited and ill-suited for proper enforcement of violence against women laws.

Clearly, expanding women's numbers and influence in policing needs to be a top priority for ending violence against women. It isn't going to be easy. Police are notoriously resistant to reforms of any kind. But when it comes to women challenging the male dominance of police powers and culture, police can be virtually immovable. Worse yet, police frequently actively organize and retaliate against women's rightful efforts to integrate policing, as many who have tried can attest. Tragically, in the last 20 years, there has been very little progress for women in policing, and even less success in eliminating the underlying anti-women biases and policies that permeate police agencies.

New strategies are needed. And especially, new people like yourself are needed to take up the cause. In this section we lay out some of the research, the lessons learned, and thoughts for future directions.


The Immense Benefits to Communities of Increasing Women's Numbers and Influence in Policing ~ Summary of Research ~

The benefits of increasing women's numbers and influence in policing go far beyond improving police responses to violence against women, though that improvement alone would more than justify the cause.

Every progressive goal for improving police services, whether that be ending police brutality, promoting community policing, reducing community complaints, or reducing lawsuits, is well proven to be enhanced by increasing women's presence in policing.

The following summary of research on the benefits of bringing more women into policing is quoted from an article in the June 2009 issue of Police Chief Magazine. Though it's a rather bland statement of what should really be banner headlines, the fact that it's published by a top law enforcement source makes it especially useful as an educational handout which can hopefully be convincing to even your most skeptical community members.

From Police Chief Magazine, June 2009, article, Step Up to Law Enforcement: A Successful Strategy for Recruiting Women into the Law Enforcement Profession

Female officers have proved to be as competent as their male counterparts. Research from departments in nine cities across the country indicates that women officers were equally as qualified as their male counterparts for patrol work.

Female officers are less likely to use excessive force. In a study conducted by the Los Angeles Police Department, women were significantly less likely to be involved in employing either deadly or excessive force, resulting in fewer lawsuits and less negative publicity for their departments. Also noted was the fact that physical strength has not been shown to predict either general police effectiveness or the ability to handle dangerous situations successfully.

Female officers can help implement community-oriented policing. Communication, problem solving, and cooperation with community members—hallmarks of community-style policing—are areas in which women officers receive better evaluations than their male counterparts.

Employing more female officers will improve the law enforcement response to violence against women. Relationship violence calls are the single largest category of calls made to police across the country. Because most of the victims are women and most of the batterers men, it is important to have female officers on the force to be effective in responding to these calls.

Female officers often have the ability to de-escalate potentially violent or aggressive situations through their presence and use of interpersonal skills, reducing the need to resort to physical confrontation.

Increasing the presence of female officers reduces problems of sexual harassment and discrimination within an agency. Sexual harassment is more prevalent in male-dominated workplaces. Hiring and retaining more women reduces the numeric underrepresentation of female officers and, as a result, enhances the organizational climate.

The presence of women can bring about beneficial changes in policy for all officers. Management has an incentive to examine selection and training standards, measures of police performance, family-friendly policies that support both parents at the time of a birth or an adoption, uniform and equipment design, and supervision of all officers. A gender-diverse workplace makes a better workplace for all sworn personnel.


Two Decades of Disturbingly Stagnant Numbers

It is stunning that in the year 2010 the number of women in law enforcement has seen so little progress. In 1990, 9% of officers in local law enforcement agencies in the U.S. were female. In 2007, Department of Justice statistics find there were only 12% female sworn officers in local law enforcement agencies. And on September 14, 2010, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing received testimony from the Feminist Majority that women still make up only 12% of local police forces. Of equal concern is that the number of females in higher ranks has also seen little progress.

An especially disheartening study in 2003 by the National Center for Women in Policing found that the meager gains made for women in law enforcement have been largely due to federal consent decrees that have forced police departments to hire more women. Even more distressing, the study found that once these consent decrees expire, the number of women in these departments begins to rapidly decline.

Interestingly, racial minorities, on the other hand, have made much more significant gains. Minority race officers, now at 25% of U.S. sworn law enforcement officers, have reached near parity. Police resistance to change seems to be nowhere more intensely focused than in its unwillingness to give up its male control of police powers.

Here in liberal Sonoma County, Ca, where we have ten different medium and small size police departments, we have worked continuously for over 15 years to increase the number of women and minorities on our local police forces.

We have gathered statistics, published scores of articles, put together task forces, gathered thousands of petition signatures, made repeated rounds of city councils meetings, helped launch over a dozen lawsuits, organized protests, sat in endless meetings with officials, called in the feds, broadcast the benefits, flown in police experts from across the country, joined with other organizations, held town hall meetings, enlisted community leaders,

.... and look at the sorry results!

After 15 years, we've been able to galvanize good community support for increasing women in policing. But, at the same time, by our most recent tally in November, 2008, in the sum of our ten police forces there were only 8% female officers, a mere couple of percentage points gain since starting our push 15 years ago. Worse, there were only a total of 7 female officers in all ten departments who hold the rank of sergeant or above. Worst of all, as of the same November 2008 tally, only five percent of the upcoming cadets in our local police academy were female.


Eleven Lessons Learned,
Eleven Strategies Forward

Lesson Learned #1 - It's unlikely that male control of policing can be ended in individual departments through isolated community efforts. Police patriarchal powers are too entrenched, and their institutional foundations too deeply rooted and interconnected. Community based efforts to open policing to women are important. But as isolated local efforts, individual police departments can easily resist and overwhelm these efforts, no matter how sustained or sophisticated they may be. Attempting to end male control of police powers through isolated community efforts alone is as unlikely to succeed as trying to end any other widespread, institutionalized discrimination without support from overarching organizational efforts.

The intensity of police determination to keep exclusive male dominance over policing can't be overestimated, nor can police determination to resist change. It's worth repeating the results found in the 2003 study done by the National Center for Women in Policing. Those results show that even when the formidable powers of federal consent decrees are brought to bear mandating that police departments hire more females, the moment the consent decrees are lifted, the gains quickly begin to erode.

Moving Forward: Efforts to increase the number and influence of women in policing need to be concerted and coordinated beyond the community level. Regional, state, and national task forces would be a great step forward in breaking the stranglehold that police can easily put on local community efforts. It's especially critical that national women's organizations take up the cause. The National Center for Women in Policing (NWCP) has been a stand out effort in this regard. But it cannot succeed on its own, especially given that the membership of the NCWP is made up principally of women already employed in law enforcement. The actions they take are restricted because of that employment. Police agencies easily monitor and retaliate against those members who step too far out of line.

Independent regional, state, and national task forces, in addition to being much better able to function outside the reach of local law enforcement, have other advantages, too. They have more sway and authority in going to the media, gathering resources, and in targeting key law enforcement pressure points, such as Police Chiefs Associations, and other state and national law enforcement entities. A sample list of these critical police entities can be found at the end of this article. Every one of these police mega organizations needs to be held to account for their failures to open policing to women, and then pushed to spearhead the cause.

Lesson Learned #2 - Simply getting more women hired into policing doesn't solve the problem. Over and over again we've seen what happens when you have momentary success in pressuring a department to hire more female officers. Police hire a batch of women into the bottom ranks. This simply resets the stage for powerful resentful men at the top of a military style organization issuing orders to powerless women on the bottom, in which the men proceed to chew the women up and spit them out again. Without more deep seated and holistic changes, simply getting more women hired onto police forces too often leads only to more lonely, traumatic, and mostly unwinnable battles by individual female officers.

Moving Forward: There are many internal changes that need to be made before many police departments are even minimally baseline habitable for female officers. There need to be revised selection standards, effective written sexual harassment and pregnancy policies, ongoing diversity commitment from the top, mentoring systems, bias free promotion systems, and much more. There are so many of these needed internal changes that we've listed them in a separate section here. At the very least, attention to making these changes needs to occur simultaneous with any campaign to increase the number of women on the force.

But one change in particular merits special note. Departments that don't have ample women in upper ranks need to lateral hire women into positions of police management. (Lateral hiring means hiring seasoned people in from outside departments.) This goal, in itself, can be very difficult to attain, especially in the departments that need it most. Many police departments are so insular and cloistered, they often have strict unwritten practices of only promoting from the inside. Over time these practices have resulted in many police agencies becoming downright agoraphobic to anyone coming in from the outside world. And, of course, opening up to the outside world is precisely what needs to happen to get these departments to adopt advances of any kind.

Lesson Learned #3 - Social justice, civil rights groups, and women's groups, for varying reasons, have so far been resistant to seriously take up the cause of increasing women's power in policing. Few things could be more influential in advancing women's role in policing than for progressive social groups to work together in taking up the cause. And few things seem more puzzling than their near complete absence from the fight. Unraveling the reasons why progressive organizations have neglected this struggle is a crucial step to getting these groups to come alive to the issue. We only touch on a few of the possible reasons here, and go into them in more depth in another section.

Social justice and civil rights groups dealing with police issues have a well established and traditional focus on ending over-aggressive law enforcement abuses. From this narrow, male oriented view of social justice, there is a tendency among these groups to avoid advocating for anything that appears to be building on police capacity, or even giving a nod to the legitimacy of police powers. As such, advocating for more women in policing can seem out of sync with these groups' generalized police-averse stands. The logic, of course, is fatally flawed. It's doubtful these groups can ever even attain their limited goals of ending over-aggressive police abuses as long as police departments are allowed to continue as hyper-male enclaves.

Women's groups' reluctance to take on the cause of women in policing is likely due to different reasons. It's only recently that women as a class have fully come into contact with law enforcement and justice institutions. Until the last few decades, there hasn't even been a meaningful body of law for police to enforce regarding the safety issues that concern women most. Women's groups still haven't carved out a consistent stand on police issues. Some consider the whole occupation as irretrievably patriarchal, some are leery of the retaliatory powers of police, and others feel aligned with the social justice rationales. And the violence against women movement, which originally set out to change police polices, and, in fact, met with some success, has since to a great degree been coopted by police through contractual constraints.

Putting it all together, the goal of integrating women into policing is severely hindered by the almost complete neglect of the issue by all but a few progressive groups.

Moving Forward: There is a vast fertile, uncultivated field in justice's landscape. It lays neglected in a huge blind spot between social justice groups on the one side and women's groups on the other. Left unattended, it's impossible to attain any of our visions for a more just society. Social justice and civil rights groups need to see that women's needs in the justice system, though distinct from men's needs, are not in opposition to those needs, but a necessary complement in a true struggle for justice for all. And women's groups need to see that the social justice framework, as uninviting as it may be in its present form, is one that can be built on and enjoined to help secure women's justice needs, including the issue at hand of increasing women's role in policing.

One of the most doable and winnable strategies for advancing women's role in policing is engaging progressive groups in the struggle. Groups like the ACLU, the NAACP, and NOW, as well as local and regional progressive groups, which have to date given the issue so little attention, should be natural and powerful allies in this struggle. But it's going to take some reaching out to these organizations with concerted educational efforts to bring them aboard. Not just educating these groups to the benefits women bring to policing, but education tailored to shine light on the gendered blind spots that have led to the issues neglect.

The optimism comes from the fact that we start from a shared hunger for a more just society. The promise is that by attending to the gaps created by ignoring gender in justice we can make enormous strides toward the goal of justice for all.

Lesson Learned #4 - Other powerful patriarchal institutions will almost always, in the end, join with the police in blocking community attempts to end male control of policing. Mayors, city council members, media editors, and other community leaders will often make encouraging public remarks and motions toward increasing women in policing. But in the end, they will rarely throw their weight in support of the effort, and all too often, they will actively stand in the way, even when the community has expressed broad support for the goals.

Police, after all, are the strong arm of the government. Despite the police mandate to protect citizens, police answer first to other powerful governmental entities. So city councils, boards of supervisors, local media, district attorney offices, despite whatever skirmishes they may have here and there with police, they will, in the end, protect the police status quo because the police protect their status quo. In our experience, neither local governmental entities nor federal authorities were ever willing to put meaningful pressure on police. In fact, in most instances, they acted to protect police from efforts to change.

Moving Forward: Community civic leaders have the necessary power to pressure police departments to change. City councils and boards of supervisors, in fact, have primary control over police monies. Most civic leaders, however, need to be understood as a big part of the problem before they can be motivated to become part of the solution. They need to be watchdogged and feet-held-to-the-fire with much the same unwavering vigilance as called for with the police. Their encouraging public statements in support of women police, official hearings, resolutions from city councils, panels, etc., can all sound very promising. In reality, it's usually just posturing designed to dazzle, distract, and drain down your precious time. Sustained and strategic pressures need to applied to civic leaders by multiple groups both inside and outside the community in order to ever get results.

Lesson Learned #5 - Different from other occupations, police are mantled in a bible-strong mythology of falsehoods that leads many in a community to back police blindly and with religious fervor. A campaign of facts often does little to pierce this mythological shield. For example, many people repeat fervently that, "Police are out there every day laying their lives on the line for us." In reality, however, as is confirmed year after year by U.S. Dept. of Labor occupational fatality statistics, being a police officer carries no more risk of death than construction work or a women giving birth. Not surprisingly, the size of the criminal threat has also been hugely exaggerated as part of promoting the warrior police mythology. You, yourself, may even be surprised to know that in the last 15 years in the U.S., the homicide rate has gone down by 44%. But campaign all you want with the facts, these facts do little to pierce the hero warrior mythology so many bestow on police.

Moving Forward: The hero warrior mythologies mantling police have to be confronted. They undermine a community's ability to keep effective democratic controls on their police, they legitimize an ever more militarized police to deal with the supposed ever growing criminal threat. Not to mention that these myths also turn a lot of women off to a career that, in reality, suits many women beautifully.

Educating to the facts is an important aspect of combating these false mythologies, but not at all sufficient. Like most mythologies, those surrounding police get their root energy from people's genuine fears, in this case from people's fears of the criminal element. Believing in a hero warrior force out there to protect them serves to quell their fears. Police, as well as many civic leaders are constantly fanning these fears and the mythological flames. So the whole construct has to be repeatedly dissected, unraveled, exposed, confronted, and replaced with a fact-based understanding of why women are good for policing, why progressive policing works, and why the military model of policing does not.

Lesson Learned #6 - More so than any other institution or occupation, police, by virtue of being police, are primed and prepared to intimidate, repress, retaliate against, and, if needs be, crush any community opposition to their status quo. Police can commandeer an overwhelming array of tactics against any community groups they wish to suppress. Police always have the overpowering advantage in the press, in the streets, in local government, and in the courts. And they are always willing to use it.

Moving Forward: The first step in any campaign has to be to anticipate back attacks from police at every step. The more effective you become the more police are certain to fight back with all their might. And that understanding has to be built in to each and every strategy.

Lesson Learned #7- The extreme lack of transparency and public participation in law enforcement activities means the public, in general, and public officials, too, are so unfamiliar with law enforcement procedures, that the public is woefully unprepared to effectively watchdog, evaluate, and strategize for changing police. Different from other government functions, such as education, city councils, water boards, planning boards, etc., where meetings are open, and the public actively participates in decision making, law enforcement decision making is done almost entirely behind closed doors. This is true both at the micro level on police handling of individual cases, and at the macro level, such as in police chiefs association meetings, where law enforcement policies are set. The extreme lack of transparency and public participation in law enforcement decision making results in a public that is woefully unprepared to effectively challenge police statements, watchdog police activities, and accurately identify police pressure points to bring about change.

It's worth emphasizing that most other public officials, even those who have the power and duty to oversee law enforcement, such as city council members, are similarly so outside law enforcement decision making processes, that they, too, are often law enforcement illiterate, and unprepared to effectively watchdog, oversee, and manage their police agencies. As a result, even when public and civic leaders agree police need to change, police can so easily bamboozle them with confusing smoke and mirror explanations, that people are left too stymied to stand their ground. Or, police can simply refuse to act no matter how strong the mandate, leaving everyone else not knowing exactly what to do next.

Moving Forward: Building a movement to change any aspect of police conduct requires doing a lot of education on the inner workings of police.

Lesson Learned #8 - Female officers generally will not, and cannot, openly join in the fight. Many community groups become discouraged because the women already in law enforcement are rarely willing or able to openly join in the struggle. Community members have complained that if the female officers themselves aren't up to the struggle, why should they put in the effort. As one local labor activist put it, "If the female officers aren't willing to stand up, I've got bigger fish to fry."

Moving Forward: The expectation that female police officers should be willing to 'join in the struggle' like women workers in other occupations is a sad misunderstanding of the brutal consequences to any female officer who breaks the rigid police codes. It's also a failure to understand that increasing women in policing has much greater social urgency than simply opening up another field for women, as important as that may be. The quality of our entire social fabric is determined to a great degree by the character and composition of our police forces.

It's important to anticipate people's concerns that women in policing are not likely to openly speak out nor join in the community's struggle to increase women in policing. But, if you're careful to keep the pressure off these officers, and if it's clear that you protect your sources, both female and male officers will often slip you exactly the internal documents and information you need.

Lesson Learned #9 - Lawsuits, by themselves, are insufficient to bring about the necessary changes. Sex discrimination lawsuits against police departments are important because they often bring justice and relief to individual officers who have been wronged. They're also helpful in educating the public to the brutal dynamics of sex discrimination in police departments. But no matter how large and repeated the payouts by city councils and boards of supervisors, no matter how scathing the press coverage, these sex discrimination lawsuits seem to have little effect on changing the persistent anti-women policies and practices that permeate police agencies. This is true even when lawcssuit settlements spell out a specific set of departmental changes that police must make in an attempt to remedy the underlying problem.

There may be an initial police effort and appearance of abiding by the terms of the settlement. But the moment the pressure is off and the public eye turns away, the patriarchal roots quickly spring back up and regenerate, often with a vengeance. Neither police management nor other local officials seem willing or capable of carrying out the court ordered mandates.

One of the most common and exasperating outcomes of even the most successful sex discrimination lawsuits is that the main offending officer(s), after a period of quiet time, are so often promoted to a higher rank.

Moving Forward: If you have the opportunity to participate in the lawsuits, it's helpful to put specific remedies beyond money into the settlements. But even then you can be right back where you started in trying to make the police agency follow through and abide by the terms. It also may be possible that class action and public interest suits can yield more clout. But, all in all, lawsuits by themselves, though an essential tool in the campaign, have not resulted in significant gains for women overall in law enforcement.

Which brings us back to what is probably the single most important lesson we learned. You can't overestimate police determination to maintain male control of policing. What's needed to successfully increase women's role in law enforcement is a full court press of a multi-tiered movement of sustained pressures and powerful allies using all the tools in the advocate's toolbox by informed people and groups who are unwaveringly dedicated to the cause.

Lesson Learned #10 - Money Talks! Analyzing police budgets has been such a sadly neglected part of ours and others' campaigns. Police budgets have big stories to tell about the way issues are prioritized (or not) within a department. They're often very different from the stories told in police rhetoric. Analyzing the sources of police monies is also invaluable for pointing directly at strategic avenues for applying pressure.

Moving Forward: Analyze police budgets and grant sources. Finding an accountant ally who is willing to sit down and help you with this is worth gold. Don't forget that all police budgets and money sources are public records and must be turned over to you on request.

One tactic that hasn't been tried as far as we know, is tying police violence against women grants into requirements that police take specific steps to integrate women more fully into their department. This can be pressed for at both the federal and state level once you track the department's grant flow.

Lesson Learned #11 - With all the hard work that's required to increase women's role in law enforcement, people can easily forget why all this effort is worth it. Given the extraordinary obstacles, the miniscule progress, and the fierce retaliations, it's easy for allies to get discouraged and to feel their energies can be better placed elsewhere.

Moving Forward: Go back again and again and again, to remind people of the many and immense social benefits of increasing women's numbers and influence in policing. Don't ever let people lose sight of just how critical it is to fully integrate women into police in order to attain safe, just, equitable, and truly democratic societies for all. And how harmful it is when police powers are concentrated in the hands of male dominated enclaves.


Tear Down That Wall!
and Other Pivotal Changes for Increasing Women's Numbers and Influence in Policing

This section lists just a sample of some of the specific changes needed within law enforcement agencies in order to remove obstacles to fully integrating women into policing. For a more detailed and comprehensive discussion, see Recruiting and Retaining Women by the National Center for Women and Policing.

** Remake Recruitment Videos and Materials:
Police recruitment videos illustrate a big part of the problem that exists before women even sign up for the job. Most of these videos, accompanied by blaring adrenaline paced music, look like an apocalyptic war zone of extreme boy toys careening on steroids; red lights flashing, motorcycles giving chase, helicopters piercing the night, guns blasting, homes invaded, SWAT tanks barreling through a town, cops hurling people to the ground...you get the idea. You can see any number of such police recruitment videos on YouTube, including this example from the Antioch Police Department. Police web sites recruiting pages and other recruitment materials also generally promote this same testosterone, unrealistic appeal.

It doesn't take much imagination to conjure the kind of person these videos are going to attract. And then comes the day when these recruits are finally on the job and confronted by the starkly different realities of day to day policing. Imagine how contemptuous, dysfunctional, and disgruntled they'll be to find that the largest category of police calls is for domestic violence, that the vast majority of time policing will be spent talking to people who are upset, that most police never fire their guns in their careers other than on the practice range, and that good communication skills are the premium.

Shifting your police department's recruitment strategies is a crucial first step for improving all aspects of policing, but especially for attracting more women. Here's a police recruiting video from Ft. Myers Police Department that does the job a much better, but still has room to grow.

** Ending Recruitment Points for Military Service.
Not only do many police agencies target the military for new recruits, but most also give extra hiring points for an applicant's military service. These extra points, of course, put most women at a disadvantage because many fewer women have military histories. But worse, the military 'us against them' mentality, with an enemy-in-your-scope view point, is the polar opposite mentality needed for modern policing which should view police as protectors of the community. Yet a great many police departments and academies, despite the practice of a boost for military service having been discredited, continue with these warrior-preferred practices.

Point your police department's recruitment efforts to more appropriate venues than the military.

** Tear Down That Wall!
The 6 ft. wall used to test police applicants has become the symbol of police determination to keep women out by any means necessary. By demanding that a person be able to pull their body up and over the wall, female candidates are disproportionately washed out because of their lesser height and upper body strength. Despite the fact that every study of this wall test has shown it to be completely irrelevant to police work, most police agencies continue to use it.

** Modernize Police Academy Curricula and Style of Training.
Whether examining your own academy's curricula and style or reviewing the Bureau of Justice Statistics' comprehensive study of the nation's police academies, you'll see the continuing archaic emphasis on a paramilitary style with most curricula hours dedicated to weapons and self-defense.

Challenge your academy to modernize and teach to the true needs of local law enforcement.

A key reference document is U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics' report on State and Local Law Enforcement Training Academies, 2006 here.

** Install Modern, Legal, Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Policies, Impartial Investigations, and Effective Discipline Systems:
Quality written sex discrimination and harassment policies are critical for women to succeed in law enforcement. Harassment by their male co-workers is repeatedly found in studies to be female officers' number one on-the-job stress, rating higher than stresses caused by any other aspect of their police work. And because these policies are so important to women's success in policing, many police departments purposely booby trap these policies, and often in illegal ways.

For example, police management may insert language making it mandatory that victims report every incident of harassment. This immediately makes women guilty of misconduct because of the impossibility of reporting every incident. Or the policy may bury the fact that an officer can make her initial complaint to an investigating agency outside her department, thus forcing women to funnel all complaints through a fixed or corrupted internal process. Or the policy may leave out the details of the investigation and discipline procedures. Thus leaving the woman completely up in the air once a report is filed.

So in order to make a police department survivable for women, the sex discrimination and harassment policies need to be inspected in every detail. To purchase the International Association of Chiefs of Police model harassment and discrimination policy (for $9.25) go here. And why aren't they providing these model policies free of charge?

** Model Pregnancy Policies and Officer Domestic Violence Policies should be written and in place.
Police department's illegal and discriminatory responses to female officers' pregnancies is a frequent cause of losing female officers. The International Association of Chiefs of Police has just this year published a model law enforcement pregnancy policy. Non association members need to purchase the policy for $9.25 here.

Because many female officers date and marry male officers, police officer domestic violence is an issue that also frequently affects the retention of female officers. For this and many other reasons too, it's important that all police departments have effective policies in place for police officer domestic violence. Here is the International Association of Chiefs of Police Model Policy on Domestic Violence by Police Officers, this one for free.

** Impartial Oral Interviews for Hiring and Promotion.
The scoring on most police written exams for hiring and promotions is impartial and can generally be reviewed for any irregularities. The problem for women and other minority groups is usually in the oral interviews where scoring is subjective and almost always carried out by panels that are weighted with white males. Oral exam panels have to be diversified. And at the very least, applicants should be allowed to tape record all oral interviews so as to make these interviews open to inspection if the applicant claims bias.

** Lateral Hiring: Make sure departments are willing to hire in from the outside, especially into top ranking management positions.
Most police departments are already plagued by an insular male enclave mentality, but when this effect is compounded by a department's practice of only promoting from the inside the agency's hostility to women can get extreme. Don't let your police department hunker down in fear and wall itself off from the outside world.

** Promote Women into Upper Ranks
One of the most common errors in a community's assessment of the integration of women into their police department is to look only at the overall number of female officers, and neglect to obtain the statistics on the number of female officers in the upper ranks of the department. When female officers are concentrated at the level of patrol, it's a sure fire recipe for encouraging a culture of pervasive harassment and discrimination. This dynamic will occur in most any employment situation where women are stuck at the bottom, but it's especially pernicious in policing where a military type command structure produces a cadre of men at the top issuing inflexible orders to women on the bottom.

Promoting or hiring women into the management ranks of police departments must be part of any successful effort to increase the numbers and influence of women in policing.


Sample Public Record Request Letters
for Obtaining Sex and Race Composition Statistics from Law Enforcement,
and for Tracking Violence Against
Women Case Statistics

Obtaining accurate statistics on the sex and race composition of your police and sheriff's department(s) is an obvious starting point for any campaign to integrate women into policing.

The three letters linked here are sample public record request letters for obtaining sex and race composition of law enforcement officers, and for obtaining statistics needed to track violence against women cases.

Here are a couple tips to be aware of in putting your request together:

  • In our sample letters we referred to the California Public Records Act. You can find the relevant public record act reference for your state by googleing "public record law (your state)"

  • State public records laws specify a time period within which the agency must reply to your request in writing. In California, agencies must respond within 10 days. Check for the time period in your state. If you don't get a response in that time, the agency is violating the law, and you should take your complaint to the chief, to the city attorney, or to your city council.

  • When seeking sex and race composition statistics from police and sheriff's departments, it's important to specify that you want the numbers of "sworn law enforcement officers". If you just say officers, many departments will include cadets, reserve officers, corrections officers, desk staff, etc., anything to inflate the number of females and/or minority race personnel who generally are better represented in these lower positions.

Public Record Request Letter to Police Department

Public Record Request Letter to District Attorney's Office

Public Record Request Letter to Police Academy


Resources for Increasing Women's Numbers
and Influence in Policing

Advocacy Resources:

Law Enforcement Selection:

Police Organizations:


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Women's Justice Center,


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