Women in Law Enforcement
Law enforcement may seem like a “man’s world,” but the need for qualified and able female police officers is growing, especially in light of new community- and service-based police programs. Today, women make up only about 12% of the law enforcement population in the U.S., a slight increase since the 1970s, when female law enforcement officers were put into positions beyond clerical desk jobs and police dispatch positions. Still, there is a gender division in law enforcement that may be due to several factors. While women can apply and be accepted into law enforcement agencies, there is still a lack of female applicants nationwide.
Women may hesitate to apply for law enforcement positions because of the physical requirements of not only the initial testing for the jobs, but also the requirements of the job itself. Typically, the physical tests are based upon a man’s ability to perform strength and agility tasks, many of which women naturally fall short of, even when in top physical condition. Many police departments, however, are changing the way the physical tests are measured, or getting rid of the testing as a requirement, in order to open up their agencies to more female law enforcement officers.
Female police officers do have an advantage over their male counterparts in many areas of law enforcement. In cases of domestic violence and sexual assault, for example, women may be seen as less threatening to victims and may be more likely to cooperate with a female officer than with a male. Also, since women typically cannot exert the same force as men, there are indications that the rate of “excessive force” lawsuits when female officers are on the scene after criminal activity has occurred.
As with any law enforcement officer, a female must pass the required tests, including physical and psychological examinations, have a clean background check and many police departments prefer an officer have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice or Law Enforcement.
The growing need for intelligent and hard-working law enforcement officers knows no gender limitations and female police officers are in demand in many police departments, as well as state and federal law enforcement agencies. Female police officers may have a disadvantage in terms of brute strength, when compared to male police officers, but their actual strength may be in different areas of law enforcement and is just as beneficial. From working with women and children who have been abused or assaulted to keeping the level of physical intimidation lower, women in the police force are a vital part of any law enforcement agency.