Women in the police force

Modified: 4th May 2017
Wordcount: 3662 words

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Chapter One: Introduction

The role of the police in the society can neither be overlooked nor belittled; without the police force to enforce the law, which facilitates reduction of crime and disorders and to protect individuals as well as national property, human coexistence would be unbearable if not impossible. The police forces are divided into various arms according to the issues in the society and the structuring varies from one state to another as stipulated in those nations’ constitutions. For many centuries prior to the 19th, the police force was almost purely for men as it was argued that the job descriptions were not suitable for women.

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Law enforcement was traditionally perceived as male field; today’s presence of women in this career is a product of countless legal battles. In many countries the tests for entry into the force were agility and strength. The gates of police work were not opened to those who did not meet the physical requirements. The battle had to be taken to the courtroom resulting to the Amendment of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The amendment prohibited race, sex, religion and color based discrimination (Seklecki &Paynich, 2007).

Problem Formulation:

     The recruitment of women in the police force can be traced from the 19th century; nevertheless this recruitment has been found wanting. There has been an imbalance as far as the status and the number of women in the force is concerned. This paper aims at expounding on the conditions of women in police force; are the conditions fair? Does gender biasness prevail in the police force? What situations are women police forced to bear with in performance of their duties? The hypothesis of this literature review is, “does gender have an effect of how police officers are treated in the workforce?” Some of the challenges that have been identified as what women law enforcers go through include: Recruitment, Promotion, job description, affirmative action and gender, sexual harassment, self esteem, qualification requirements among many others. Some of the things that will be established in this paper include: Conditions to be fulfilled for recruitment in the force, challenges of promotion to higher ranks, affirmative action in the endeavor to better police women conditions in the force among other key issues that affect police women directly.

Sexual Harassment:

Theorists has posited that oppressions that are based on gender or/and sexual orientation are intrinsically linked. Harassing behaviors that are based on gender or sexual orientation are based on a common root that aims at maintaining a patriarchal society which stipulated gender roles. Sexual harassment in workplace was defined by Magley (1997, p. 15) as “unwanted sex-related behavior at work that is appraised by the recipient as offensive, exceeding [one’s] resources, or threatening [one’s] well-being.” This problem is very common in many nations USA having no immunity; it’s estimated that 35- 50% of all US women and 9-35% of all US men have been victims to sexual harassment. Shaw has observed that sexual harassment is not only physical, but also involves; comments, treatment in sexual nature, and any activity that is based on a persons gender and makes the person feel uncomfortable.

Gender Bias:

Sexism is a way of thinking about sexes; sexism is a form of discrimination, or gender based biasness. Gender roles emanate from having such a way of thinking. Many people are socialized to believe that there are chores for men while some others are for women, hence if one is seen doing what is culturally believed to be for the other sex, it’s perceived as ‘incorrect conduct.’ Gender biases are based on stereotypes, where people are judged according to their physical traits, physical abilities, interest, occupation attitudes and personality traits. Gender biases are the basis for maltreatment of female law enforcers (Shaw, 2000).


Masculinity Culture:

     Santos (2004) made observation of the challenges that Latin American (Brazilian) women police were going through prior to establishment of women police stations. The case study explained how the women police managed to overcome the masculinity culture that was dominating the police force and perceiving the women in the force as just items of showing gender concern for the nation but not for any “real work.” Santos has concurred with Conselho Nacional dos Direitos da Mulher (2001) observations that women police in Brazil were discriminated and accorded the light duties as such was the most rational approach to their role in the force considering their gender; women can not manage hard tasks. Indeed the very absence of institutionalized gender-based training for women police was a clear indication of the limitation of creation of women’s space in the masculine and repressive arm of the state.

     Natarajan (2009) argued that there is a need to have a separate but an identical model of policing whereby men and women should have separate departments. The reason behind such an argument was based on Natarajan observations that despite the fact that the western countries had moved from what he referred to as “reluctant separate and unequal status for women police officers,” the police women remained to be numerically minority and demeaned in role playing within the police force. She pointed out that the women police were faced with barriers to equal access to diverse roles and tasks available in the police force as compared with their male counterpart. High integration is not an option if women will have equal opportunities as men in maintenance of law and order. His argument was that use of “back door” approach would facilitate recognition of women value as officers in police department. From a research conducted in among Indian police she argues that ineffectiveness in police department especially on gender issues result from men domination of police force, women are not free to express their challenges to men.

Underground Discrimination:

     Silvestri (2003) has noted that despite many nations removing barriers that were preventing women from entering to the male-dominated police career, the structures are yet to be fully transformed to warmly accept women in the field. He has pointed on the ratio in their leadership in police top positions as an open evidence of that fact. For example in Australia, they occupy just 6.3 percent of the top national policing while US top police leadership has 5 percent women representation. His argument is that discrimination of women policing is still on but less visible and more subtle and discrete, it operates from the underground and the police women experience it and are affected daily by it, no wonder have higher stress as opposed to male police.

Women Integration:

The integration of women in police force is far from being achieved. Natarajan (2001) has posited that in many countries if not all, women comprise of a very minute percentage of serving officers. He draws from many studies that identified that women are yet to be fully accepted as qualified candidates from the duties in police department. Barriers to full integration emanates from various circles, including: male officers prejudices, societal attitude and beliefs on police career and women, and inherent differences between both sexes in physical capabilities. The women law enforcers that were studied complained of; lack of promotion, family suffering because of tight work schedules, getting late for marriage which resulted to birth complication, and works that were physically draining. Natarajan stated that these reasons have used to justify lack of integration, for women were not fully contented with what the police career entailed.

Leadership Imbalance:

     Silvestri (2005) noted that in Wales and England glass ceiling has been cracked in the police force; however the number of women in the force and in high positions remains to be disappointingly low. Silvestri noted that a decade after Pauline Clare was appointed as first Britain woman chief constable, there was very little change in ratio of traditional men to women police amidst numerical increase of women in police force. He argues that myths of women as weaker sex and lacking ability to manage the heavy duties in the police force are still prevalent. Drawing from a research on what it takes to be police leader, he found out that police leaders are expected to be knowledgeable agents, of which stereotypes posits that women have lesser knowledge compared to their male counterpart. He noted that police force is faced with a challenge of long working hours which though unsuitable for both men and women, women suffers the more for they long hours are incompatible with women’s family roles; consequently demeaning any hopes of rising up the leadership ladder.

Women Stress:

Stress Spillover

     Thompson, Kirk and Brown, (2005) conducted a research on stress spillover among police women and how it affects their careers as well as their family. The high occupational demands in the police force acts as limitation to women advance in police career. They noted that women are known to reflect more workplace stress more than men, consequently women who are interested in making their marriages and families work find it hard to cope with police force work. They found out that emotional exhaustion act as a mechanism through which workplace stress spills over to the family, consequently reducing family cohesion. Thompson, Kirk and Brown, (2005) shared their findings with Morash and Kwak (2006) that the victims suffer interpersonal disorder such as withdrawal which affects women more than men. Women being more socialized to family hood resolve to giving in to their families than careers, this is taken as the base of women low ranks in the police force. The stereotype is used to abase the police women in their pursuit of senior positions.

Rank and Stress:

While conducting a research on the relationship between high ranking women officers and low ranking women officer among Greek officers, Antoniou (2009) identified high ranking officers were more stressed in comparison of low ranking. He pointed out the difference was as a result of the male bosses attempt to oppress women not to rise upper. This strategy was observed as having been employed in many states. He identified that women were intimidated through threat of their personal integrity, exposure to danger, and violence and rape threats by fellow officers or criminals.

Stressor and Obstacles:

Dowler and Arai (2006) conducted a study to identify how the male dominated field may increase stressors and obstacles among female police. They first noted that despite the steady growth of women in the police force, they are still by far under represented with 12.7% only of the entire body of large organization’s lawn enforcers and 8.1% in small agencies. They noted that from time immemorial police work was perceived to be men’s hence masculinity subculture is yet to be exited creating additional stressor for female officers based on male centered environment. The women experience significant resistance and resentment from male administrators, supervisors and counterparts, especially by the chauvinists who have grave reservations on women in relation to competency as law enforcers. The reservations and resentments are based on femininity stereotypes. Women police table men-colleagues’ attitude towards them and their career as the most significant setback that they face in doing their work. They identified that men and women police have divergent perceptions on gender discrimination, which acts as the source of conflict as women feels they are judged according to their gender. Dower and Arai concurred with McCarty, Zhao and Garland (2007) who argued that workplace stress is manageable if one had peer support to share challenges with. Police law enforcers have a low percentage of women hence in many places women have no one to share their pains with.

Stress and Suicide:

While reporting on a study conducted on the rates of suicides among police officers as compared with their respective genders Burke (2006), observed that the rate of male officers who committed suicide was lower than the total males who committed suicide, but police women suicide rate was four times more than all the women who committed suicide. The study therefore concluded that police women were subjected to more stress than male counterpart.

Women Reactivates:

Sun and Chu (2008) conducted a research in an attempt to identify gender differences in policing. The study was geared towards understanding what approach the police prefer as the most effective to law enforcement. The women respondents were more supportive to an aggressiveness approach as opposed to men. The researchers argued that the reason for women attraction to aggression was in an attempt to prove that they were capable and did not fear male criminals. This was perceived as a strategy to put off stereotypes against women law enforcers.

In a study conducted by Seklecki and Paynich (2007) on police women’s perception about their career as law enforcers, most of them felt that they were equally capable if not better than their male peers. Most the interviewees tabled harassment from their male peers and their husbands based on their career as the greatest challenge they face daily. Most of them were found to deliver better than men since they worked with an attitude of proving the allegations that they are lesser able wrong. Criminals also were easily caught by women for most perceived women as not being able to hand put them into trouble. Their greatest battle is fighting chauvinistic harassment.

Public Perception:

     Yima and Schaferb (2009) conducted a research to identify how the public perception of police affects the officer’s job satisfaction. The research identified that the public perceptional image on officers influences their job satisfaction as well as delivery. Community perception of women law enforcers is that they are less capable as compared with their male counterpart, this demoralizes the officers and most of the time they do a duty to prove that they are able not to fulfill their duty. While not on duty they are esteemed for achieving “men’s” career, but are not trusted as capable of delivering.

Affirmative Action:

     Tougas and Beaton (2005) observed that were it not because of affirmative action in the United States, women would have remained to watch and admire the traditionally male-dominated careers. Nevertheless they did not fail to notice that change in workforce composition was still facing immense challenges. Police work was perceived as requiring males because of the physical strength required and the dangers police officers are exposed to. Women involvement in the work was perceived as challenging masculinity icon of the work. They shared the observations with Hunt (1990) in arguing that violence and criminal issues are not feminine, hence women should keep of and let those who are endowed for such (men) deal with them. They argued that this were the basis for harassment, exclusion from some tasks, and discrimination. Tougas and Beaton argued that as much as affirmative action has facilitated a great deal of women entry to the force, the numerical imbalance is still immensely visible. Perception of police women as lesser police is a prevalent form of sexual harassment.

Collins (2003) conducted a research geared towards identifying why there was a significance increase in the harassment among female law enforcers despite having laws that are supposed to protect female officers from such harassment, from the public or their peers. The writer identified that Florida criminal justice standards were wanting as in many other states. The article writer noted that despite collecting enough evidence of pervasiveness related to sexual harassment, the number of sexual harassments were on the increase. He argued that the increase emanated from the minimal discipline that was imposed on culprits, it was substantial hence encouraging more men to do if not repeat such acts.

Chapter Three: Conclusion- Seklecki and Paynich

     In an attempt to find an answer to the hypothesis of whether gender have an effect of how police officers are treated in the workforce, Seklecki and Paynich (2007) conducted a national survey of female police officers. They pointed out that to have women in law enforcement was a battle that was won in courtroom through amendment of the constitution. They have noted that the police force was men workplace and women were expected to keep off for the duties involved required masculinity. Seklecki and Paynich identified that qualification to the police force required agility and physical strength.

     Seklecki and Paynich conducted literature review on the findings of various writers on women policing. They found out that the entry of women to law enforcement career has been very low with as little as 15% of the entire police force. They have observed that police force is still structured for men limiting women from joining and fully exploiting their potential in the career. They observed that discriminations against women are still prevalent. The behaviors of female officers such as excessive use of force were linked to the discriminations, in attempts to prove they were equal police to their male counterparts. Seklecki and Paynich observed that objection of women from joining law enforcement career was/is an attempt to maintain patriarchal society and roles.

     Seklecki and Paynich observed that to ensure that women self-esteem in policing career was abased, male counterpart have created a negative work environment for women police. Female officers operate under pressure compared to male peers.


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