EQUALITY DENIED:
The Status of Women in Policing, 1997

CONTRIBUTORS:

Chief Penny Harrington, Director, National Center for Women & Policing
Alexandra Besser, Senior Research Associate
Danielle McAnneney, Research Associate
Sharon Terman, Intern
Eleanor Smeal, President, Feminist Majority Foundation
Kathy Spillar, National Coordinator, Feminist Majority Foundation

ã June 1998 Revised, National Center for Women & Policing, a division of the Feminist Majority Foundation


EQUALITY DENIED: THE STATUS OF WOMEN IN POLICING, 1997

In order to monitor the growth of women in law enforcement, the National Center for Women & Policing has completed a study on the Status of Women in the largest law enforcement agencies in the country. This report examines the gains and gaps in the numbers of women in policing, and provides a picture of where women are in policing today. The report also presents the major barriers preventing women from increasing their numbers in law enforcement and lists the detrimental effects of continued under-representation of women in police departments.

Since its inception in early 1995, the National Center for Women & Policing has been a leading force behind increasing the numbers of women in policing. The positive impact of women in policing, including the reduction of police brutality, the increased efficacy in police response to domestic violence, and the increased emphasis on conflict resolution over force, mandates that we strive for gender balance in policing.

But, as this study shows, the increase of women in law enforcement remains stuck at an alarmingly slow rate. At the present rate of growth, women will not achieve equality in law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, the data is clear that there has been progress only where women law enforcement officers and women's organizations have taken legal action to fight the discriminatory hiring and promotion practices and where court ordered consent decrees have forced agencies to increase the numbers of women or minorities hired and promoted.

KEY FINDINGS


1 Based on reporting by 106 of the largest 125 state, county and municipal law enforcement agencies. This report was originally issues in April, 1998, with a slightly lower number of reporting agencies. Revisions in the calculations are reflected in this report, although overall percentages are virtually unchanged and trends and conclusions are unaffected by the revised numbers.

2 For this study, the sworn law enforcement positions have been grouped as follows: Top Command includes Chiefs, Deputy Chiefs, Commanders and Captains; Supervisory includes Lieutenants and Sergeants; Line Operation includes Detectives and Police Officers.

BARRIERS TO WOMEN IN POLICING

Study after study concludes that the single largest barrier to increasing the numbers of women in policing is the attitudes and behavior of their male colleagues. Nationwide studies consistently find that discrimination and sexual harassment are pervasive in police departments and that supervisors and commanders not only tolerate such practices by others, but are frequently perpetrators themselves. Hostile environments and systemic discrimination keep women from joining police agencies in more significant numbers and from promoting up the ranks to policy-making positions, thus perpetuating a style of policing which is outdated, ineffective, and enormously costly to communities.

BIASED ENTRY TESTS.

WIDESPREAD DISCRIMINATION ON THE JOB.
  • Once on the job women are frequently intimidated, harassed, and maliciously thwarted, especially as they move up the ranks. In Los Angeles, male officers formed a clandestine organization within the LAPD called "Men Against Women" whose purpose is to wage an orchestrated campaign of ritual harassment, intimidation and criminal activity against women officers -- just one example of the kind of organized harassment women experience in law enforcement. A large number of women across the country have been driven from their jobs in law enforcement due to unpunished, unchecked and unrelenting abuse.

RECRUITMENT POLICIES THAT FAVOR MEN.

  • Law enforcement agencies continue to heavily recruit ex-military and at military bases that are disproportionately populated by men. Recruitment departments have not adequately intensified their efforts to attract qualified women candidates or to portray policing as a profession that welcomes women.

OUTDATED MODEL OF POLICING.

  • Law enforcement agencies continue to promote an outdated model of policing by rewarding tough, aggressive even violent behavior. This "paramilitary" style of policing results in poor community relations, increased citizen complaints, and more violent confrontations and deaths. Redefining law enforcement to a community-oriented model of policing would attract more women who reject policing's trademark aggressive, authoritarian image.

UNDER-REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN HURTS LAW ENFORCEMENT.

  • National and international research shows conclusively that increasing the numbers of women on police departments measurably reduces police violence and improves police effectiveness and service to communities. The studies also show that women officers respond more effectively than their male counterparts to violence against women, which accounts for up to 50% of all calls to police. Yet this record stands in stark contrast to women's dramatic under-representation in police departments where they make up 13.3% of sworn officers nationwide.

ESCALATING COST OF POLICE BRUTALITY.
  • Study after study shows that women officers are not as likely as their male counterparts to be involved in the use of excessive force. As a result, the under-representation of women in policing is contributing to and exacerbating law enforcement's excessive force problems. The actual and potential liability for cities and states is staggering, with lawsuits due to excessive force by male law enforcement personnel costing millions of dollars of taxpayer money every year.

INEFFECTIVE RESPONSE TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.
  • Domestic violence is the single major cause of injury to women and yet the majority of these violent crimes against women go unreported and uninvestigated by law enforcement agencies. At the same time, law enforcement officers who commit domestic abuse are routinely ignored or exonerated, often leading to tragic results. With studies showing that as many as 40% of male law enforcement officers commit domestic abuse, more women law enforcement officers can serve as a strong force to promote a more effective response by agencies to domestic violence cases that occur both within police departments and community-wide.
DAMAGED POLICE-COMMUNITY RELATIONS.
  • Women favor a community-oriented approach to policing which is rooted in strong interpersonal and communication skills and which emphasizes conflict resolution over force. Women tend to rely on their verbal skills over employing the use of force. With greater numbers of women, this highly effective model of policing will increasingly improve the public image of law enforcement agencies as well as have a positive impact on police-community relations nationwide.
COSTLY SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND SEXUAL DISCRIMINATI0N LAWSUITS.
  • Law enforcement agencies have tolerated workplace environments that are openly hostile and discriminatory towards female employees, forcing women to bring successful lawsuits against their agencies. The ongoing serious under-representation of women in policing leads to greater numbers of incidents of sexual harassment and discrimination. Increasing the number of women, treating women equally on the job and holding women to fair hiring and promotion practices will reduce the enormous costs resulting from widespread lawsuits.
THE STATUS OF WOMEN IN POLICING, 1997: SURVEY FINDINGS

Over the last 26 years, women have increased their representation in sworn law enforcement positions to 13.3% in 1997, from a low of 2% in 1972.3 This 11.3 point percentage gain has been spread over the intervening years, or at an annual rate of gain of less than one-half of 1 percentage point per year. In 1978, women in the largest municipal agencies commanded 4.2% of the sworn law enforcement positions, up 2.2 points from 1972. Nearly ten years later, in 1988, that number had barely doubled to 8.8%4, and it was not until 1993 that agencies on average had reached a major benchmark, crossing into the double digits.

In 1997, the rate of increase remains glacial. Data from 1990 to 1997 demonstrates a paltry 2.7 point increase (See Graph 1), which is approximately the same rate of change that was recorded from 1972 to 1978, a comparable year spread. With very few exceptions, women remain underrepresented among patrol officers and are virtually absent from the decision-making ranks and positions of authority in police departments across the country.

Graph 1

Source: NCWP Report, 1997. Source for 1990 and 1993 data: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Although women hold only 13.3% of the sworn law enforcement positions in the agencies surveyed, yet they continue to hold the majority of lower-paid civilian jobs (See Graph 2).


3International City Management Association, "Personnel Practices in Municipal Police Departments" Urban Data Service 5., 1972.
4Susan E. Martin, Women on the Move? A Report on the Status of Women in Policing, Police Foundation Reports, 1989.

Graph 2

Source: NCWP Report, 1997. Sample Size 58

Not surprisingly, women's gains are concentrated in the lowest tier of sworn law enforcement positions. Women hold 14.6% of Line Operation law enforcement positions. Their numbers rapidly decrease in the higher ranks. For example, women hold 9.2% of Supervisory posts and only 6.5% of Top Command positions (See Graph 3).

Graph 3

Source: NCWP Report, 1997. Sample size 94

In the vast majority of agencies, women of color in sworn law enforcement positions are scarce. While women overall hold 13.3% of sworn law enforcement positions, women of color hold less than 6% of these jobs. Moreover, women of color are virtually absent from the highest ranks, holding a token 2.2% of the most coveted Top Command law enforcement jobs (See Graph 4). Only five agencies, including Washington Metropolitan Police, Detroit Police, Miami Police, Richmond City Police and Atlanta Police reported at least 10% women of color in their sworn law enforcement ranks (See Table 1)

Graph 4

NCWP Report, 1997. Sample size: Civilian, 24; Sworn, 56; Line Operation, 51; Supervisory, 51; Top Command, 51

Table 1

Law Enforcement Agency Ranking from Largest to Smallest Percentage of Sworn Women Officers

 

 

 

Agency

Total Sworn Officers

Total Sworn Women Officers

% Sworn Women Officers

% Women Top Command

% Women

Supervisory

% Women Line Operations

1

Pittsburgh Police

1,140

285

25.0%

37.5%

25.6%

24.7%

2

Washington Metropolitan Police

3,628

898

24.8%

11.5%

23.1%

25.4%

3

Detroit Police

4,018

869

21.6%

19.7%

22.0%

21.6%

4

Philadelphia Police

6,748

1,456

21.6%

4.6%

9.8%

24.3%

5

Miami-Dade Police

2,920

611

20.9%

N/A

N/A

N/A

6

Toledo Police

731

146

20.0%

10.5%

12.1%

22.1%

7

Chicago Police

13,271

2,545

19.2%

3.0%

13.1%

20.0%

8

Buffalo Police

928

171

18.4%

N/A

N/A

N/A

9

Montgomery County Police

954

173

18.1%

6.3%

10.1%

19.7%

10

Birmingham Police

913

161

17.6%

20.0%

19.5%

17.4%

11

Miami Police

979

172

17.6%

0.0%

14.8%

18.4%

12

Orlando Police

612

107

17.5%

0.0%

18.0%

17.9%

13

Pinellas County Sheriff

1,425

248

17.4%

4.8%

14.3%

18.3%

14

Cincinnati Police

978

170

17.4%

10.0%

8.1%

19.6%

15

Los Angeles Police

9,392

1,626

17.3%

3.3%

10.2%

18.5%

16

Sacramento County Sheriff

1,216

207

17.0%

5.0%

9.1%

16.7%

17

Memphis Police

1,553

260

16.7%

14.3%

10.2%

17.8%

18

San Diego County Sheriff

1,802

300

16.6%

15.4%

15.9%

16.8%

18

Franklin County Sheriff

547

91

16.6%

14.3%

5.6%

19.8%

19

Cleveland Police

1,784

296

16.6%

9.5%

14.9%

17.1%

20

Tampa Police

1,032

169

16.4%

19.0%

18.9%

16.2%

21

Riverside County Sheriff

1,661

272

16.4%

N/A

N/A

N/A

22

Orange County Sheriff-Coroner

1,127

182

16.1%

10.7%

13.6%

21.5%

23

Portland Police

938

150

16.0%

5.9%

16.0%

16.2%

24

Indianapolis Police

970

153

15.8%

7.7%

12.3%

17.2%

25

Dallas Police

2,815

444

15.8%

20.7%

14.1%

26.9%

26

Louisville Police

654

102

15.6%

11.8%

7.1%

17.3%

27

Fort Worth Police

1,201

187

15.6%

11.8%

8.5%

16.8%

28

Milwaukee Police

2,150

323

15.0%

8.6%

8.2%

16.1%

29

New York City Police

37,745

5,655

15.0%

3.6%

8.8%

16.3%

30

San Francisco Police

1,997

299

15.0%

12.5%

12.4%

15.6%

31

Tulsa Police

795

117

14.7%

9.1%

4.1%

17.8%

32

Tucson Police

813

119

14.6%

14.3%

13.0%

14.9%

33

Minneapolis Police

925

135

14.6%

16.7%

17.0%

13.5%

34

Atlanta Police

1,447

210

14.5%

23.3%

8.0%

14.4%

35

Harris County Sheriff

2,482

359

14.5%

9.7%

9.0%

15.1%

36

Baltimore Police

3,081

433

14.1%

5.6%

7.8%

15.3%

37

St. Paul Police

548

77

14.1%

0.0%

8.2%

17.1%

38

San Diego Police

1,965

276

14.0%

21.7%

11.7%

14.4%

38

Prince George's County Police

1,264

174

13.8%

8.3%

8.6%

14.9%

39

Los Angeles County Sheriff

7,481

1,025

13.7%

12.7%

10.4%

14.5%

40

Seattle Police

1,232

168

13.6%

20.0%

11.2%

14.2%

41

Baton Rouge Police

592

80

13.5%

7.7%

16.7%

12.6%

42

Kansas City Police

1,172

158

13.5%

18.3%

11.8%

13.5%

42

Columbus Police

1,736

229

13.2%

4.3%

7.8%

14.2%

38

East Baton Rouge Parish

545

71

13.0%

N/A

N/A

N/A

44

St. Louis Police

1,600

202

12.6%

N/A

N/A

N/A

45

Alameda County Sheriff

784

98

12.5%

7.7%

3.2%

12.7%

46

San Bernardino County Sheriff

1,184

143

12.1%

2.8%

3.7%

14.0%

47

Houston Police

5,307

632

11.9%

4.3%

7.6%

13.1%

48

Baltimore County Police

1,561

184

11.8%

5.3%

6.4%

13.4%

49

Albuquerque Police

874

102

11.7%

7.7%

11.7%

11.5%

50

Michigan State Police

2,139

248

11.6%

0.0%

7.5%

13.8%

51

Phoenix Police

2,353

270

11.5%

10.7%

8.6%

12.0%

52

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police

1,728

194

11.2%

8.3%

8.9%

11.7%

53

New Orleans Police

1,237

137

11.1%

2.9%

11.2%

11.4%

54

Yonkers Police

534

59

11.0%

0.0%

3.2%

13.3%

55

Virginia Beach Police

708

77

10.9%

7.1%

5.7%

11.7%

56

Richmond City Police

654

71

10.9%

5.9%

26.4%

20.7%

57

Long Beach Police

841

90

10.7%

0.0%

6.7%

12.5%

58

Denver Police

1,409

150

10.6%

10.7%

11.5%

10.4%

59

Fairfax County Police

1,049

103

9.8%

10.7%

8.0%

10.2%

60

Anne Arundel County Police

597

58

9.7%

0.0%

9.1%

13.1%

61

Cook County Police

853

81

9.5%

11.1%

2.9%

10.1%

62

Oakland Police

599

56

9.3%

16.7%

6.9%

10.0%

63

Nashville Police

1,229

113

9.2%

18.5%

9.3%

9.5%

64

California Highway Patrol

6,478

583

9.0%

4.7%

6.6%

9.2%

65

Jacksonville Sheriff

1,424

128

9.0%

20.0%

3.4%

9.9%

66

Nassau County Police

2,935

260

8.9%

4.2%

3.9%

9.8%

67

Oklahoma City Police

953

84

8.8%

2.2%

9.5%

7.6%

68

El Paso Police

1,013

89

8.8%

0.0%

6.9%

9.3%

69

Jefferson Parish Sheriff

706

62

8.8%

5.6%

10.5%

8.5%

70

Rochester Police

675

58

8.6%

0.0%

7.3%

9.2%

71

Illinois State Police

1,982

169

8.5%

8.5%

7.5%

9.2%

72

Ohio State Highway Patrol

1,359

115

8.5%

0.0%

3.8%

10.7%

73

San Jose Police

1,312

110

8.4%

6.3%

3.3%

9.8%

74

Honolulu Police

1,716

142

8.3%

3.8%

5.4%

10.4%

75

Massachusetts State Police

2,696

223

8.3%

2.9%

5.3%

12.5%

76

Newark Police

1,077

89

8.3%

0.0%

4.6%

9.3%

77

Maryland State Police

1,558

126

8.1%

3.2%

8.2%

8.2%

78

New York State Police

3,990

321

8.0%

4.2%

5.9%

8.5%

79

Arizona Department of Public Safety

963

66

6.9%

0.0%

14.2%

7.1%

80

Connecticut State Police

945

63

6.7%

6.7%

5.2%

7.0%

81

San Antonio Police

1,886

114

6.0%

8.0%

6.5%

5.9%

82

Port Authority of NY-NJ

1,289

77

6.0%

5.0%

6.2%

5.9%

83

Oregon State Police

757

45

5.9%

0.0%

1.3%

7.5%

84

Iowa State Patrol

643

36

5.6%

3.1%

2.7%

6.2%

85

Jersey City Police

873

46

5.3%

0.0%

1.3%

6.3%

86

Indiana State Police

1,229

60

4.9%

2.8%

5.4%

4.7%

87

Tennessee Department of Safety

603

29

4.8%

0.0%

1.1%

6.6%

88

Washington State Patrol

939

43

4.6%

5.6%

3.5%

4.8%

89

Texas Department of Public Safety

2,765

126

4.6%

N/A

N/A

N/A

90

Colorado State Patrol

625

25

4.0%

2.7%

4.1%

4.1%

91

Georgia State Police

857

33

3.9%

0.0%

3.3%

4.2%

92

Pennsylvania State Police

4,083

155

3.8%

6.6%

4.3%

3.6%

93

Virginia State Police

1,620

61

3.8%

0.0%

2.7%

4.0%

94

Missouri State Highway Patrol

1,115

36

3.2%

0.0%

1.3%

5.4%

95

Louisiana State Police

933

28

3.0%

0.0%

2.4%

3.4%

96

New Jersey State Police

2,564

74

2.9%

N/A

N/A

N/A

96

Kentucky State Police

1,000

27

2.7%

2.6%

1.8%

2.9%

97

South Carolina Highway Patrol

924

24

2.6%

0.0%

0.0%

3.1%

98

Alabama Department of Public Safety

694

15

2.2%

2.5%

2.9%

2.0%

99

Oklahoma Highway Patrol

699

10

1.4%

0.0%

0.0%

1.8%

100

North Carolina State Highway Patrol

1,380

11

0.8%

0.0%

0.7%

0.6%

Source: NCWP Report, 1997.

Copyright 1998, The Feminist Majority Foundation