IntroductionGender bias, sexual harassment, and lack of training have been an ongoing struggle for women in policing and it continues in today. I will be discussing this issue and will assess its past, present and future implications as they relate to the Criminal Justice System. I will be discussing my assessment of the past history and present circumstances of woman in policing. I will also include my predictions and recommendation of how these issues’ should be addressed by the police and prosecutor in the future. Implications
Dating back to the 1970’s sexism was not considered to be a form of discrimination. Women faced the perception of the public that a women’s place was in the home; a woman’s role was to cook, clean, and raise the children, not carrying a badge and a gun protecting their neighborhood streets. She was expected to stay at home and it was unreasonable for her to willingly put herself in harms way. It has been a constant struggle beginning with the world inability to accept a woman in a crucial position of authority.
The requirements set forth by the police departments in the application process made it near impossible for a woman to gain employment in criminal justice. Such things as height and weight standards were set to a degree as to eliminate most if not all women. Such tactics as creating requirements for women that were different from that of a man were one of the many attempts made to discourage a woman from even trying. For instance some police departments required a woman to have a four-year college degree and a man was only required to have a high school education.
As time passed women began to break the barriers and were able to gain employment within the police department however, they were still only allowed to fill the roles that would put them out of harms way. Once again women were facing yet another form of discrimination only this time it was disguised. The police department believed that if they were to give women jobs within the confines of the office that it would serve two purposes; women would stop crying out for equality, and the women could fulfill positions that the men felt were beneath them such as administrative work, and secretarial positions
. This was not the case, women were given a taste and that made them want more. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 amended the foundation for occupational opportunities for women. Notwithstanding some gains in the upper ranks of a male-dominated field, improvements were still needed. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that legislation and judicial improvements were made to support women’s demand for equality, this is when their duties and responsibilities began to grow. In 1971 only 1.4 percent of the police officers were women; in 1995 it substantially increased to 24 percent of all police employees being women. In the article Women in law enforcement:
A positive work environment, S. E. Martin (1991) indicates that, although both court-ordered and voluntary affirmative action policies have had a significant impact on the hiring of female officers, they have not affected the promotion and advancement of women into the higher ranks of law enforcement agencies. (p. 5-9).
The progress made by women in policing has come primarily through legal mandates rather than executive leadership within organizations. With the recruitment rate of only 20 percent it is not likely that the percentage of women in the police force will increase considerably. Issues
In 1995, the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) conducted an organizational culture survey of all state directors of corrections and directors of large city jails. Findings suggested that gender inequality is real, although men and women perceive the inequality differently. Women believe that to advance to positions of leadership, they have to work harder and take greater risks than men. (Corrections Today, 1991, p. 106, 108-109). Corrections have had to adjust to the growing number of women in the labor pool. In 1991, the American Correctional Association’s (ACA’s) Women in Corrections Committee surveyed state adult and juvenile corrections agencies’ training programs, particularly programs that targeted female employees and that pointed to specific areas of need that had not been met.
Thirty-nine agencies were surveyed (19 adult, 16 youth, and 4 combined), and all agencies had formalized training programs. The results showed that forty-six percent of the agencies offered training to address specific needs of female employees. Seventy-six percent required all staff to take courses in sexual harassment awareness. Fifty-nine percent offered training to decrease gender and race bias/stereotyping and to increase awareness and understanding of gender differences. The primary concern, voiced by 36 percent of these agencies, was for training to understand and help eliminate sexual harassment. (Federal Prisons Journal, 1994, p. 1-23).
The courts and statutes recognize two forms of sexual harassment. Quid pro quo is explained as something for something. This occurs when a supervisor or manager requests sexual favors, has made sexual advances that are unwelcome, or engages in physical conduct of a sexual nature. Hostile work environment is a situation where a non-employee, co-worker, or supervisor may be the basis for the sexual harassment claim.
A hostile work environment can be created by suggestive pictures or comments, unwanted physical contact, obscene gestures, sexual jokes, and other contact that interferes with an employees work environment or performance. (American Jails, 1991, p. 15-17). The seriousness of sexual harassment is recognized at all levels and department leaders must make it clear that there is a zero tolerance for this behavior.
Some agencies that are responsible for enforcing the laws prohibiting sexual harassment also experience such problems. For example, according to a 1993 National Law Journal survey, 73 percent of the responding law firms had a formal written policy for sexual harassment, yet harassment remains a problem. (American Jails, 1991, p. 15-17). In a 1994 St. Louis Bar Association study, both men and women reported observing at least one incident of sexual harassment by a superior, and more than half of the women surveyed for the 1993 National Law Journal study reported having experienced harassment on the job.
(American Jails, 1991, p. 15-17). Although many approaches to preventing sexual harassment have been suggested, Susan L. Webb, in Step Forward, states that those companies and organizations that successfully stop or prevent harassment in their workplaces have comprehensive programs in place that include six elements: (1) top management support; (2) a written, posted policy statement; (3) procedures for receiving and handling complaints; (4) experience in handling complaints; (5) training for all employees; and (6) follow-through. (American Jails, 1991, p. 15-17).
Providing the appropriate training will ensure that women are prepared to face the challenges they are facing in the police system. Training is essential to assure they have the skills required for advancement, and to prevent sexual harassment. There are studies that show that women are underrepresented in higher-level positions such as executives. A set of factors have been identified by A. Morrison, R. White, and E. Van Belsor in 1987 that have proven to be successful for women in corrections.
These factors spotlight communication, decision-making, and strategic planning. (American Jails, 1991, p. 15-17). For instance women must be tough but not macho, take responsibility but also follow others’ advice, they must take risks but must also be constantly outstanding. Unfortunately some of these serve as a double edge sword. To put it simple for a women to succeed female managers and executives must find the overlap between acceptable male and female behaviors that the dominant senior executive male culture finds acceptable. (American Jails, 1991, p. 15-17). Once women have achieved success, they must continue the work and training effort to keep their levels of advancement. My Assessment
We are in a moving car and times are still changing. Many programs have been implemented in order to educate and identify gender bias, sexual harassment, and training issues. We still have a long way to go before we reach a point where these issues no longer exist. Female officers are at least as firm as their male counterparts in managing a suspect involved in serious incidents. In states with the highest percentage of female officers in the police workforce, there were 47 percent fewer assaults on female officers.
This is primarily a result of the female officers ability to listen better than men, they seldom act “macho”, they have a calming effect, are less confrontational, and often exercise control without using force. These qualities are detrimental in a stressful or aggravated situation. I believe we can create a cohesive environment where there is no gender bias and sexual harassment can be controlled. We must always be vigilant and swift with correction. Recommendations
It is recommended that development and implementation of policies and practices to create an organizational culture that uses the distinctive qualities of policewomen, thereby enabling them to take advantage of the same career opportunities as male officers. This environment would value the complex role and competing interests that women face in both society and the workplace. It is also recommended that there be an executive commitment to creating an organizational structure that provides training on the value of diversity in the workforce and demonstrates agency support for women by providing mentoring for career development. Conclusion
Since first being implemented, policewomen have proven themselves to be extremely effective and essential elements of law enforcement, facing many inequalities along the way. While recent advances in equality have been made, law enforcement is still seen as a male-dominated field. If we are to see further progress in the equivalence of the field, it is important to continue to work for gender equality within our nation’s policing institutions. While we still have so far to go, women have raised though the organization over the years.
The hilarious stories of whacking a suspect with the purse, chasing a youth in those ridiculous heels, and ripping skirts while climbing over fences have been replaced with accounts of high-risk takedowns and arrests, drug busts, and complicated criminal investigations. While discrimination still exists in today’s society women will continue to overcome the obstacles placed before them with the help of the many organizations that are now available in the criminal justice organization.
ReferencesMcCoy, D.G. (1993). Women in law enforcement. A positive work environment. Law Enforcement Tomorrow 2(1), 5-9.Bergsmann, Ilene (1991). ACA Women in Corrections Committee examines female staff training needs. Corrections Today 53(7) 106, 108-109.Rison, R.H. (1994). Women as high-security officers. Gender-neutral employment in high- security prisons. Federal Prisons Journal 3(3) 1-23.Beck, Ann C. and Stohr, Mary K. (1991). Sexual harassment and support for Affirmative Action. American Jails 5(5) 15-17.Corrothers, Helen G. (1991). Managing success. In Change, Challenge, and Choices. Women’s Role in Modern Corrections, p. 67-81.