Women in Policing Research Paper

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Women rarely entered policing at the inception of a nation’s police force(s), rather their entry was delayed and then often marked by circumscribed roles and limited occupancy of all available ranks. Four broad phases can be identified when women officers were recruited into the police: after World War I, the interwar years, after World War II, and the modern period from the 1980s onwards. With some variations, one familiar pattern is observable whereby there is a period of omission, followed by limited succession, formation of separate women’s departments, and in some jurisdictions a further stage of working towards full integration. At time of writing, there is no evidence of a fully integrated police organization where women represent 50 % of the officer workforce and enjoy an equivalent share of the full range of roles and ranks within the police hierarchy.

The experiences of women in policing were not subjected to systematic study until the 1970s when Susan Martin undertook a landmark participant observational analysis of American women police officers (Martin 1980). Since then there has been a great deal of scholarship addressed at women in policing, e.g., evaluating their efficacy; determining roles and rank progression women officers have achieved; charting their incursion into specialist areas such as firearms; examining stress, styles of policing, and how they handle violence; and looking at the ways in which they lead.

Some advances have also been made in terms of theorizing. Much conceptual work examines women in policing through the lens of gender relations and masculinities and women’s subordinated status (Martin and Jurik 1996). A model of women’s progression has been advanced (see Brown et al. 1998) which has been applied and extended by Strobl (2010) and Natarajan (2008). However, in the area of internal diversity, there are relatively few comprehensive evaluations taking into account developments concerning recruitment, promotion, and retention simultaneously (Van Ewijk 2012), and comparative studies are still scarce (Brown and Heidensohn 2000). While empirical data on gender diversity within police forces is limited, obtaining these data represents more of a challenge in some regions than in others (Van Ewijk 2012).

The task of comparing the progress made by women worldwide is too large to be encompassed within the constraints of this research paper, and research papers are too patchy to enable exhaustive coverage; thus, the analysis presented here is necessarily selective. It is noteworthy that women’s progress into police services has frequently accompanied periods of reconstruction, as in Europe after the two World Wars, and nation building as in the postcolonial era in the Middle East, Asia and Africa and emerging democracies in South America and Eastern Europe. The numbers of women police officers and their status are often an indicator of the progressiveness of police force’s policies, especially with regard to internal diversity and the policing of sexual violence, and provide an indicator of that nation’s progress in terms of the equality of women more generally.

Women’s Representation In Policing

Brief Global History

It is generally acknowledged that the first woman to be appointed as a police officer was in Stuttgart in 1903 (Heidensohn 2000). Heidensohn notes some similarities and differences between countries in this pioneering phase. Shared characteristics include focus on social and welfare work, use of well-educated recruits from upper-or middleclass backgrounds, and an impetus provided by an external movement lobbying for the presence of women in policing. Prenzler (1994, p. 88) observes in respect of early Australian policewomen that they “were used to fill a gap between law enforcement and welfare and to mitigate difficulties experienced by policemen in managing female offenders and female victims of crime.” Heidensohn (2000) suggests differences that reflect Prenzler’s dichotomy, in the sense that in New Zealand, USA, and Sweden, women did not adopt a police uniform and were employed as matrons, nursing sisters, or social workers. This contrasts with countries elsewhere, such as Great Britain, where women had a clear aspiration to be part of the police uniformed service and have an involvement in crime and public order (Brown and Heidensohn 2000). The ostensible impetus to employ these first women in policing was to manage female suspects or victims of crime, but the more pragmatic reason was the shortage of men as a consequence of conscription during World War I and the control of sexual morality (see Brown et al. 1998 for a more detailed discussion). Brown and Heidensohn (2000) find evidence for the opposition to the entry of women in policing in all these countries which they state was a combination of paternalistic concerns to protect women and patriarchal exclusion of women as being unsuitable for the rough and dirty tasks required.

During the interwar years, countries such as France, Poland, Spain, and Portugal introduced women into policing. This was in line with either moral policing whereby women officers dealt with trafficking, prostitution, and those classified as moral delinquents or performing support functions such as of typing or administration (Brown and Heidensohn 2000).

After World War II, more countries employed women as officers again in the wake of reconstruction. For example, in Hong Kong, Chinese women were introduced in 1949 although confined to clerical duties, interpreting and taking statements in the Criminal Investigation Department. Interestingly, serving women officers from established forces such as Great Britain were seconded to develop these units of policewomen. American police advisors were sent to South Korea after the ending of World War II to develop a 500-strong female police workforce to work primarily with women prisoners and undertake some crime-related work (Moon and Morash 2008). This pattern of sending advisors to help form policewomen’s units could also be observed in postcolonial Africa, where models of policing very much followed patterns established in the former colonial power (Igbinovia 1981). Using the police forces of Ghana and the Ivory Coast as examples, Igbinovia compares Anglophone and Francophone police forces, whose organization and administration were modelled on the patterns of pro-independence British and French colonial rule. Women were deployed in more challenging tasks in the newly established Commonwealth countries, whereas in the African French community, they were limited to administrative tasks which reflected the roles policewomen played in the countries of the originating colonial power.

Women in Policing Research Paper

The modern era is marked by the reconstruction of democracies in the countries of Eastern Europe following the breakup of the USSR, the introduction of women police in the gendarmeries of Europe, developments in women-only police stations in Brazil and India, and new roles for women police in Arab countries.

In sum, while countries vary in the dates that women were admitted into the police, opposition was almost universal. Political activation and lobbying contributed to changing attitudes towards the possibility of women police officers, but their actual entry was often precipitated by some crisis. For example, in India the idea of women police officers was thought incompatible with their role as homemakers, but their entry was occasioned by problems created through the mass movement of people following Partition in 1947. African women’s attempts to form a women’s police corps were often met with vilification and accusations of being unable to deal with criminals, yet the reality of trafficking problems in newly emerging nations provided an impetus to their recruitment. The progress of women into mainstream policing in established democracies of Western Europe, developed countries with long traditions of independence, and in America and Canada was to some extent assisted by equality legislation which provided an impetus to equal rights and treatment of women generally with policewomen being among the beneficiaries.

The following sections will take a brief stock-take of the current position of women police officers. Because there are no clear-cut jurisdiction classifications nor strict geographic divide, we have themed policing jurisdictions in terms of their democratic status.

Women Police In Established Western Democracies

The numbers of women police in established Western democracies are steadily increasing and have reached between 20% and 25 % in some countries and almost a third of the officer complement of the Federal Criminal Police in Germany (Van Ewijk 2012) (Fig. 1).

Percentages of women among rank and file police officers have now risen to or beyond the point where women are generally seen as tokens, which is 15 % with 35 % said to be the tipping point when gender relations are normalized. In terms of their percentage share of management ranks, then this is between 22 % and 27 % for countries such as the Netherlands and Sweden, while in Great Britain those percentages are 16 %. In France however in 2005, 18 % of the commissioners were female, versus 14 % of the patrol officers. Possible explanations are as follows: firstly, a government feminist policy that originated in the 1970s focused on the higher ranks, for which higher education was more important than physical strength and, secondly, that senior French police officers were persuaded that women are especially fit to be police leaders because of their feminine skills, but remained unconvinced that they are fit to be patrol officers because of the risks. A further contributory factor may be direct entry at officer level. As a result, female police officers are more likely to access higher ranks from the outside than by moving up internally from the lower ranks.

Women in Policing Research Paper

It is difficult to predict whether the increase of female police officers will continue in the future. On the one hand, the relatively high percentage of female police students in 2008 in Austria (27.1 % versus 11.5 % of female basic police officers) can be seen as promising for gender diversity. On the other hand, recent data, for example, on high-ranking female police officers in the Netherlands, appear to indicate that in some cases this increase has come to a halt (Van Ewijk 2012). This coincides with Prenzler’s observation that in some jurisdictions, periods in which women in policing made gains have been followed by reversals. He illustrated this with reference to the Queensland Police where, following Commissioner Whitrod’s reforms, more women were recruited. A subsequent commissioner, Lewis introduced quotas and reinstated the marriage bar, curtailed deployment of women, and systematically removed lesbian officers which resulted in a downturn in the percentage share of women in that force. In the United States there is evidence that the numbers of women in larger police agencies has either stalled or is reversing due to the decrease in the number of consent decrees mandating the hiring of women and sustaining their promotion (National Center for Women and Policing 2002).

Women Police In Postconflict Nations

The position of women in nations reconstructed after war remains somewhat equivocal. Moon and Morash (2008), e.g., looked at South Korea where a target of 14 % of women officers has been set for 2014. They conclude that women are yet to be fully integrated and have yet to have similar training nor undertake comparable work. They find that male officers are still negative about their women colleagues and about increasing their numbers or extending their duties.

We see similar dynamics of gender diversity within some European police forces post-World War II, although the percentage of female officers in the basic levels of police forces fluctuate considerably in this category: in Ireland, more than 30 % of the basic police officers are female, while this is only 4 % in the Guardia Civil of Spain (see Fig. 2).

Again, after post-World War II reconstruction in Europe, the percentage of female officers in managerial and senior ranks is considerably lower than that of rank and file officers (Van Ewijk 2012), with the so far unexplained exception of Ireland.

Women in Policing Research Paper

Women Police In Reforming Nations

Nations that have undergone reforms after seismic political upheavals often have to attend to relationships between the police, citizen, and state. Reams and Nelson (2008) looked at policing in Brazil which was characterized by brutality, corruption, and ineffectiveness. In the wake of democratic reconstruction from a dictatorship to a multiparty democratic system, efforts were made to reform the police to legitimate the new regime. The New Brazilian Republic created women-only police stations in 1985 as a way to combat sexual violence against women. Ten years on, there were 200 delegacies de defesa de mulher (DDMs) throughout the country. Yet many activists have withdrawn their support for this innovation because of poor service and lack of sustained funding and resources. Also, women in mainstream policing believe a secondment to DDMs compromises their long-term career goals, a finding confirmed by Natarajan (2002) when studying women-only stations in Tamil Nadu, India: these were under-resourced and women officers felt unappreciated and lacking rewards or incentives.

The percentage of women police in reforming nations in Europe after the disintegration of the former USSR fluctuates considerably. The high percentage of basic police officers in Estonia contrasts with that of Poland, Slovenia, and Slovakia (Van Ewijk 2012) (Fig. 3).

Despite the increase of female officers in the police force of Estonia, the relation between gender diversity and rank is the same as in the other countries: gender diversity diminishes as rank rises. Basic female officers represent 39.2 %, management female officers 28.9 %, and senior management female officers 4.5 %.

Women Police In Postcolonial Nations

Strobl (2010) reminds us of the importance of cultural differences when attempting to assess progress in justice organizations in developing nations. Asiwaju and Marenin (2008) undertook an extensive study of how community policing was conducted in Nigeria. Policing in that country was hierarchically rigid and defensive against criticism which caused an absence of meaningful communication between rank and file and very senior officers. They described that gender mainstreaming and pressure from civil society had increased the numbers of women from 4 % in 1993 to 16 % by 2006. Nevertheless, barriers remain, such as the current police regulations which do not distinguish recruitment criteria between men and women, the continued assignment of “women’s” duties, i.e., dealing with women and children, the fact that women (but not men) require permission to marry, and the fact that women are discharged when pregnant.

Banks’ (2001) study of women in the Papua New Guinea police notes that women were first recruited in the 1970s, 80 years after the formation of the force. In 1991, it was hoped that there would be full integration except for mobile and riot squads. The system of “wantok,” which is a web of family obligations, is found to be reproduced in the workplace where women are treated as mothers or sisters, so that senior women find it difficult to exercise authority over men. Women did not perceive themselves as penetrating gender demarcations, rather they thought of themselves as proffering advice and being of assistance to men and adopted a submissive coping strategy to coincide with the traditional culture.

Women in Policing Research Paper

Strobl (2010) examined the emerging presence of women in policing in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries (GCC): Bahrain (10 %), Kuwait and UAE (unknown), Qatar (4.7 %), Oman (4.5 %), and Saudi Arabia (0 %). Women were introduced into the Bahrainian and Omani police forces in the 1970s, in Qatar in the 1980s, and in Kuwait in 2009. Strobl concludes that the duties of policewomen in GCC countries are more limited that those of their Western counterparts: in GCC countries policewomen are employed in segregated units that focus on women and juveniles as victims, witnesses, and offenders, and they work as security screeners at airports and investigate cases involving child and female offenders. According to Strobl, the Arab, particularly Muslim cultural context, is very different to the secular West. Thus, whereas in Western democracies equality legislation entitled policewomen to litigate when police forces failed to comply with the law in order to advance their progression, in Arab countries “gender as it relates to policing is negotiated in ways that are inconsistent with a secular, liberal feminist agenda” (Strobl 2010, p. 7). As such, she proposes a parallel model where segregation and integration operate simultaneously. In this, she coincides with Natarajan (2008), although in a follow-up to her original data collection Natarajan interestingly finds a shift in preferences with a greater number of mostly younger women officers opting for a fully integrated model, convinced that they can police alongside the men (Fig. 4).


Operational Frontline Tasks

As we have seen, most police services, during much of their histories, labored under untested assumptions about the unsuitability of women for police work. An exception to this was a series of innovative evaluation projects carried out in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. These “performance” or “patrol” studies compared the profiles of male and female officers across a wide range of police tasks. The studies varied in their findings on arrest rates, traffic citations, sick days, accidents, academy results, and commendations and reprimands. However, overall, most differences were largely negligible (for summary of this research, see Lunneborg 1989). Other studies found that, while the public was generally accepting of women police, female victims of crime tended to prefer the assistance of a female officer and women police were better at providing practical advice and assistance to all victims of crime. In the USA, the performance studies were important for successful litigation taken under the Equal Opportunity Act 1972 which found that institutionalized impediments to women police did not relate in any way to genuine job requirements.

Research by Rabe-Hemp (2008) suggests that women officers themselves believe they bring some distinctive characteristics to the task compared to male colleagues, i.e., greater empathy, communication skills, and fewer forceful behaviors. Women she interviewed (in the United States) believed that they were better at serving the needs of women and children, especially those who had been subject to violent or sexual abuse, and that they were more likely to act as advocates to prevent their re-victimization. Community policing was a particular area where women (and men) legitimized more feminine ways of policing. Community policing stresses communication, familiarity, and building of trust and rapport between the citizen and community member rather than the rapid response required of reactive emergency policing.

Physical Aspects

The performance studies were also important for destroying the myth that women could not cope with the physical demands of policing, i.e., that women police lacked sufficient strength to control resisting subjects and that they were a safety risk to themselves and other officers. The studies provided support for the view that upper body strength is less important for effective policing than having good negotiating skills and physical restraint skills that involve a minimal force approach. By these criteria it appears that women are as capable, if not more capable, than men. Studies also found that female police were more likely to have a calming effect in confrontational situations, whereas male police tended to contribute to the escalation of conflict (for more detail of these studies, see Lunneborg 1989).

Specialist Roles

As implied above, women, when first entering a national police force, are unlikely to have the full range of roles available to them. Within their separate police units, they are able to achieve higher ranks, but since most national forces have significantly smaller percentages of women, then inevitably force of numbers will limit their proportionate share of the highest ranks within assimilated or integrated forces. It is noteworthy, even in forces that claim to treat women and men equally, they are likely to be excluded from public order or counterterrorism deployments.

As forces achieve integration, women begin to perform tasks in areas of specialism that were previously limited to men. In England and Wales, e.g., it is possible to track the increasing percentage of women deployed in specialist roles (Home Office 2010) (Fig. 5).

The police services in England and Wales were legally mandated to integrate men and women officers by the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act. Migration of women into specialist areas of policing, dominated by men during the period of segregation, was slow and is still incomplete. In 1990, women predominated in the investigation of child crime, sexual offenses, and domestic violence. Their percentage share since then has actually dropped. Apart from the vice squad, traffic departments, and firearms units, which remain persistently gender segregated, women have been gaining access to areas of specialist operations and in several are approaching or have surpassed the 25 % threshold.

Ethical Standards

The issue of physical ability and use of force overlaps with the issue of police integrity and use of excessive force. Ethical climate surveys suggest women are not necessarily more ethical in their attitudes or more likely to report wrongdoing by other officers (Waugh et al. 1998). However, the research shows clearly that women attract fewer complaints from the public, including fewer complaints regarding assaults and excessive force. For example, an Australian study found that male police attracted two-and-a-half times as many allegations of assault as female police (e.g., Waugh et al. 1998). An observational study, also in Australia, found that male officers were twice as likely as female officers to engage in threatening behavior and physical contact with members of the public, which in turn elicited greater resistance and aggression (Braithwaite and Brewer 1998). Research has similarly shown that women police appear to be less “trigger happy” and much less likely than male officers to fatally shoot offenders. In the USA, successful litigation for excessive force by male officers was estimated to cost taxpayers up to 5.5 times the amounts associated with the actions of female officers.

Women in Policing Research Paper

Barriers For Women Police Officers

Discrimination And Harassment

As described earlier, the entry of women in policing in most jurisdictions has been, for the most part, contested. Discrimination and harassment have been a consistent feature of policewomen’s experiences (see review by Natarajan (2008)) and appear in many jurisdictions (see, e.g., Somvadee and Morash 2008). Forms of sexual harassment include sexist jokes, comments about women’s appearance, use of derogatory or offensive language, being pressured for dates, and deliberate sexual contact, while discrimination includes differential deployments, blocked promotion, and “safer” station house assignments. As demonstrated above, women have not fully accessed the rank structure and areas of specialist policing work. But have things changed due to legislation, department policies, and practice reforms and gender mainstreaming? Somvadee and Morash (2008) looked at the experiences of female law enforcement personnel in the USA. They found that many women reporting potentially sexually harassing behaviors did not experience this as sexual harassment. Some women tolerated the behaviors as the price of fitting into a male occupational culture. Other women described how they confronted offensive language and behavior, resulting in men apologizing. What women in this survey found most bothersome was the notion that they, women, could not do the job. Foster et al. (2005) undertook research in England and Wales and reported that women officers still felt excluded, undermined, and undervalued. The participating officers felt that overt forms of discrimination were not so wide spread but that they had to work harder than male colleagues to prove themselves equally capable. As alluded to above, policewomen in the womenonly police stations perceived that their career opportunities were thwarted as a consequence of secondments out of mainstream policing. In sum, discrimination and harassment is still being experienced by women police officers.

Sexual harassment is very difficult to prevent in male-dominated organizations. The suggestions from the research literature are that the dynamics are complex and that there is interplay of other factors such as work environment which provides better explanations than demographics alone. Moreover, the presence and implementation of comprehensive anti-discrimination and harassment policies are insufficient by themselves as often victims were fearful of complaining or disenchanted that complaining would make any difference. Somvadee and Morash (2008), p. 494) advise that “police organisations need to consider the implications of high levels of continuing exposure to sexually oriented jokes and remarks” not least to the psychological harm experienced by recipients and reputational damage to the police itself.

Stress And Health

Police occupational culture is critical in understanding the pressures exerted on women officers that subjects them to some different stress experiences. Stressors impacting police officers tend to be divided into those that form part of the operational tasks, such as dealing with crime, public order, and arrests, and aspects of the police organizational climate, including shift work, promotions, and relationships with colleagues. For the most part, both men and women officers suffer similar stress loads and adverse reactions to the bulk of task deployments. However Thompson Kirk and Brown (2006) show that men and women officers experience their work environments differently, in particular concerning interpersonal conflicts. They found that interpersonal stress accounted for 31 % of the variance, organizational stress for 15 % of the variance, and operational stress for 8 % of the variance. The first two factors were more influential for senior women officers. This suggests the importance of social support both in operational confidence in women’s abilities and organizationally in flexibility of working arrangements. Maintaining work life balance and managing domestic care responsibilities appear to weigh on women officers more heavily than men. This is in part due to cultural expectations about the roles of women, police organizations’ ambivalence about flexible working arrangements, and to some extent women’s own coping adaptations to domestic pressures (Dick and Cassell 2002).

Accessing Senior Rank

Relatively little research is available, charting the experiences of senior women police officers, with the work of Marisa Silvestri (2003) and Dorothy Schulz (2004) being notable exceptions.

Van Ewijk (2011b) shows how percentages of women officers in higher ranks drop more than what would be expected on the basis of the percentage of women officers in the average year of entrance of officers of that rank. This is so even in a police force where all officers enter at the same basic level and follow the same career path, and the outflow of (women) officers before retirement is practically nonexistent.

Silvestri (2003) records barriers including on call requirements, a promotion track demanding geographic flexibility, and career interruptions due to maternity breaks. This is confirmed by Schulz (2004) who describes how women achieving senior ranks in the United States made trade-offs in the sense that many of them were single (finding career and geographic mobility difficult to combine with domestic life) or rarely had more than two children to minimize disruption and care arrangements.

Policy Implications

When considering the progress made by women into policing, then, there are few police forces with generic policing tasks that omit women entirely, Saudi Arabia being among the exceptions. In Western democracies, all types of policing activity are open to women, but they are still likely to be a minority in specialist areas, such as those involving firearms, counterterrorism, traffic, and riot control duties. In practice, women are more likely to be present in general patrol duties and administrative and supportive functions, especially among non-sworn personnel. With some exceptions, sworn (or warranted) female officers have a higher presence among the rank and file of operational officers than in the higher ranks. In developing and reconstructed nations outside of Europe, women are more likely to be either employed in segregated units or engaged in limited roles focused around women and children. Even so, many police forces report difficulties concerning the retention and promotion of female officers, and a few have properly considered the implications of the increasing gender ratio of women officers in terms of women’s great rates of sickness absence and maternity leave.

Removing formal barriers to women in policing and creating nondiscriminatory processes in recruitment, training, deployment, and promotion are relatively straightforward tasks. First steps include removing any female quotas and removing physical ability tests in recruitment – especially military-style obstacle course tests. These “physical agility tests” could be replaced with a general health test that assesses an applicant’s ability to be trained in the basic physical requirements for general duty policing as demonstrated by research and case law (Lonsway 2003). Education should also be given a high profile in selection criteria. In addition, including female representation on recruitment and promotion panels may guard against bias in selection. Enforceable policies against sexual harassment and sex discrimination should also be introduced with an internal unit responsible for their implementation. These relatively straightforward measures are likely to make a contribution towards equity, or near equity, in the ratios between female applications and female appointments and also take the edge off the more blatant forms of sexual harassment and sex discrimination on the job.

Research in developed democracies indicates that these relatively passive policies of nondiscrimination will lead to a rapid increase in the number of female recruits to between 25 % and 33 % and a slower increase in the number of female sworn officers to between 20 % and 25 % (Prenzler et al. 2010). However, the goal of full numerical equality will be thwarted by a number of factors. The activation of anti-discrimination law often requires complaints and litigation, but aggrieved parties can be deterred by cost factors, ignorance of the law, and fear of retribution or difficulties proving bias. Disadvantaged groups such as women also frequently “self-select” out of applying for employment, promotion or specialist roles because of career expectations generated in childhood, the potential conflict between work and child-rearing responsibilities, and expectations of discrimination. Just as many women police become highly skilled and eligible for promotion, child-rearing commitments often mean they drop out of policing and do not return – even when maternity leave is available (Prenzler et al. 2010). In response to these problems across occupations, affirmative action programs have been introduced to provide greater encouragement and support to women. In some police departments, particularly in the USA, resistance to integration has led to the imposition of quotas on the recruitment of women (and other minority groups), often through court-ordered consent decrees. In other jurisdictions, the focus has been more on voluntary proactive support strategies, such as targeted recruitment campaigns, pre-application classes, career development courses and mentoring programs, flexible employment options, childcare advisory services, and rejoining policies (Prenzler et al. 2010).


The research literature reveals a difference of view about the current status of policewomen. On the one hand, it has been proposed that a gender-neutral position prevails, whereby the sex of the officers has a diminishing effect on work-related attitudes as recruits who are similarly socialized will converge in their behaviors. On the other hand, the continuing gender discrimination position argues that gender still matters, that the increasing percentages of women have fragmented traditional police cultural, and that training cannot erase the significance of gender socialization and gendered experiences so that men and women will do policing differently (Lundman 2009).

Some research supports the gender-neutral position, such as Lundman’s own, whereas other research points to differences in men and women’s approach to policing (see Lunneborg 1989 for summary). Lonsway (2006) indicates that men and women officers in an American force she studied had common motivations for joining the police and, once controlling for other demographic variables, gender alone was not a statistically significant differentiating variable in terms of job satisfaction, feelings of job security, and likelihood of remaining in the force. Women have reached the higher ranks and some have been promoted to lead their forces in Western democracies, but the gender ratio still is vastly in favor of men. Lonsway suggests that there are still impediments for some women in policing, notably the sustained negative attitudes towards them by co-workers, performance double standards, whereby women still perceived they have to do better than male colleagues to be seen as equally competent. She also reports that other women believed they faced no such barriers. Yet other research argues that actually women, by preference, preserve some of the differentiations between them and their male colleagues because either they are not attracted to working in maledominated departments, such as traffic or firearms, or domestic convenience limits long working hours (Dick and Cassell 2002). Women in Arab nations would also appear to show no appetite for gender integration (Strobl 2010).

Research data indicate that increasing the number of women does not have an adverse effect on the ability of police to carry out their duties – provided standard controls are in place in recruitment, training, and supervision and monitoring. Rather, it is highly likely that more women will make for better policing. Actually, survey results show that improved relations between the police and the community will enhance community cooperation with the police and this process is boosted with more women police. However, there does not appear to be any empirical evidence at present to support the view that increasing the number of women police will lead to more crime being solved or reduced. Positive effects are to be seen in police conduct and police-community interactions with more women officers with de-escalation of conflict situations and increased support for victims of crime. These are, of course, utilitarian arguments. There is also the stronger, arguably, overriding, argument that a policing career should be open to women if they want one on equity grounds alone.

There is indicative research that the degree of women’s incursion into policing may tell us something about the progressiveness of a force and the general state of equality and democracy in the country concerned (Ivkovic 2008). (Davenport 2008) argues that without a critical mass of women in policing, there is a democratic deficit. If policing is to actively engage with citizens, she argues that those citizens must recognize the value of the service, feel that the service is accountable to them, and be able to evaluate its performance. One way to achieve this is for the police service to “look” more like the communities it serves to underpin its legitimacy in a democratic society.

The move towards full integration for women police is perhaps more of a concern in Western democracies where the ideal of equality is well established following the “second wave” of feminism in the 1960s and 1970s. However, there are different paths to equality, and recent work by Natarajan (2008) suggests that in some jurisdictions it is advantageous to adopt a twostep approach to equality. She argues that in some societies the creation of separate police units is justified by the level of hostility to female police and the specific needs of female client groups. Research in other developing nations supports the case for a more culturally appropriate, staged approach to the involvement of women in policing (Strobl 2010; Natarajan 2008). Natarajan (2002) found an evolution in the views of Indian women police in traditional roles towards a preference for greater integration as their experience grows and they become more confident in their ability to carry out the full range of police duties. She concluded that models of policewomen’s progression such as Brown’s which was developed to account for the experiences of women in Western democracies can be applied more widely but that progress towards integration in traditional cultures is likely to be slower and suffer more reversals than in Western countries. Strobl (2010) proposes that women involved in policing in the GCC countries are deployed, as are policewomen elsewhere, in duties related to children and young offenders, yet are unsympathetic to the plight of migrant working women. Moghadam (2010, p. 4) observes “while women should be present in diverse occupations and professions for the sake of equality and rights, feminists should not be under any illusion about the extent of institutional change, especially in such domains of the state’s repressive apparatus as the police force or the military apparatus”. Similarly, Clarke (2008) showed that while postcolonial states in Africa took on the institutional machinery left by the colonial power, there was little critical analysis of new models, especially the ones where women may play full part in. Thus, an “add-in” women approach was adopted without questioning the gendered premise of security sector and its role on government.

So there do seem to be some universals: women’s entry into policing was delayed and contested, women police everywhere suffer some form of sexual harassment and discrimination, and there is no evidence that having women in policing is detrimental to performance. The efficacy of policewomen’s departments or women-only police stations is equivocal with often support for early successes but more dubious evidence of the sustainability of those successes. There is clear evidence that women are less likely to use or misuse physical force. As yet, there is no evidence of truly integrated police forces.


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