Women in Law Enforcement: Equality versus Inequality

A look at the history of the unequal treatment of women in law enforcement in the United States.

The paper discusses why women are ideally suited for most law enforcement activities and notes their superior communications skills, excellent field tactics, initiative and self confidence. The paper then discusses, however, how women who try to make entry or to gain promotion in law enforcement often meet with harsh resistance or even violent restraint. The paper describes how law enforcement hiring practices are replete with blatant discrimination practices and sexual harassment against women.
The paper posits that since it has only been 20 years since women have been permitted on the force, it make take a couple of more generations for stereotypes about police officers and women to be changed.
“As crime increases around the country, towns are requiring more law enforcement officers, bigger jails and larger prisons to handle the increase in criminal prosecution. Women have been hired at an increased rate over the last decade mostly because of government established quotas. Regardless of this, women are still experiencing difficulty in getting positions in law enforcement. One may wonder if this glass ceiling will ever shatter. It must be remembered, however, that it has been only twenty years since men let women in the building at all as officers.
“Women and Blacks have been involved with some aspect of law enforcement in the United States since the end of the 19th century. While Blacks were initially hired to patrol Black neighborhoods, women were hired initially as matrons to take care of lost children and women’s lodging rooms and women’s prisoners. Matrons were often paid by social service organizations rather than by the city. This often separated them in the minds of police officers that these women were not part of the department but part of the social welfare system. It has only been since 1968 that women have been included on patrol forces.”