Female police chief of a large city

Throughout history, women have been a part of the workforce, but it wasn't until 1888 legislation was passed requiring communities with over 20,000 people hire "police matrons" to care for female prisoners, women were allowed to be part of law enforcement. According to the text, police practices were challenged the first half of the 19th century, but soon, in 1922, the IACP passed resolution supporting the use of women in the police force. Penny Harrington had been instrumental in identifying and developing strategies to remove the obstacles to hiring more women in law enforcement.

I feel it was interesting that after Penny Harrington sued the Portland Police Department for sex discrimination, she was sworn in as the first female police chief of a large city. However, even today women are discouraged from applying to law enforcement agencies because of the aggressive and authoritarian image. Women often face discrimination, harassment and intimidation. Early expectations of women in law enforcement were that they would not succeed in a male oriented occupation.

However, research has shown female officers are considered at least equal to male officers in most areas of police work. Additionally, it has been shown that female officers are not as likely as male officers to be involved in the use of "excessive" force. This alone would improve the service to communities and the effectives of policing. Once women are part of the police workforce, many refer to the term "glass ceiling" to describe the barrier, unacknowledged by many, that keeps female officers from being promoted to positions above the entry level.

The "glass ceiling" exists and is usually proven by statistics. If statistics show all women are not being promoted above the position of supervisor, then all women are being discriminated against. In order to feel accepted by male officers, many women feel like they have to become "one of the guys" and be accepted into the "brotherhood. " It is a double edged sword, because "women that try to act like one of the guys on the street or in a jail is considered too hard, too coldhearted or too emotional and have been criticized by peers and supervisors.

" (Shusta, 2005) The double standard women face when becoming a police officer is that many women feel they have to perform better than their male counterparts just to be accepted as equal. Unfortunately, this was not recognized by supervisors as "excellence in police work", this was seen as "trying too hard, or getting too involved or spending too much time on issues. " Thanks to Ms. Harrington and the efforts of women activists, hundreds of women have the opportunity to become police officers and succeed at it.

When developing a culture awareness program in law enforcement, I feel it is important to consider each race and their culture including history, customs, religion, traditions and gender roles. Each particular race views law enforcement differently so it is important to understand how each culture relates to law enforcement and society. I feel it is important to realize in many areas of the world, economics, politics and government are not separate from religious beliefs.

An assessment should be considered to identify the department's strengths, weaknesses, tolerances and attitudes. The recruiting process for law enforcement officers should also compliment the culture and diversity program. A cultural awareness program should include role-playing exercises which focus on responding to and handling cultural diversity and sensitivity situations. The various beliefs, values, arts, morals, habits and customs of each cultural group must be learned in order to effectively understand each culture.

"Diversity training programs can be grouped into the following categories: awareness-based training, to increase employee knowledge and sensitivity to diversity issues; skills-based training, to provide workers with a set of skills to enable them to deal effectively with diversity; and integrated training, which merges diversity concepts with previous training programs. " (Wentling, 2005) Training programs need to be looked upon by officers and presented by the department as an opportunity to learn about different cultures and personal biases instead of being forms of punishment imposed upon them through outside political pressures.

"When we focus on understanding of one another, seeking to build relationships and break down hostile walls, then the risk for harm is low. " (Mouw, 1992) In addition to understanding one another, we also need to strive to understand ourselves. Cultural awareness of one's own culture as well as another's culture enhances communication and encourages positive interaction between people. "Internal culture often determines people's behavior. To understand what motivates people's behavior is to understand their internal culture.

Law enforcement professionals need to develop cultural understanding or, better yet, cultural empathy. We need to put ourselves in other people's cultural shoes to understand what motivates their behavior. " (Block, 1994) Along with the cultural awareness program, law enforcement needs to consider developing partnership programs with the community and use the media to help facilitate the process. By law enforcement making the effort to learn the culture of the communities they serve, it encourages members of the community to become involved and learn to cooperate with police.

Organizers must keep in mind, the effectiveness of any program needs to be assessed over time so the success can be evaluated and the program redesigned if needed. Law enforcement communication with minorities is an area that needs constant attention. One of the major hindrances of law enforcement improving communications with minority citizens is that a large percentage of minorities do not trust law enforcement. Many minorities have been (or know someone that has been) a victim of "racial injustice. " The challenge comes in how to effectively deal with problems when they arise and how they should be addressed.

As the text states in Chapter 6, many African Americans look to law enforcement as a system that has oppressed them and other minorities. (Shusta, 2005) Law enforcement has to continually challenge the language and cultural barriers preventing them from effective communication with minority communities. One area of communication that law enforcement should be concerned with is "non-verbal. " Many cultures have different non-verbal communication styles. Studies have shown that 55% of messages come from our body language, 38% from our voice intonation and volume and 7% from actual words.

(www. coachability. com) As a member of law enforcement, it is important to be aware of your non-verbal behavior and communication as well as the non-verbal communication of the people you deal with. Many times, when dealing with minorities, law enforcement must rephrase questions so everyone is clear and understands the question, answer and outcome. Because of such diverse groups of people within our cities, it is necessary for officers to understand what is and what is not appropriate when communicating.

There are people of some cultures that would be offended from something a police officer was saying or doing thinking it was "appropriate. " Non-verbal communication, expressions and gestures, with relation to certain cultures is essential in responding to people from other countries. Body language and nonverbal messages from a person directed toward an officer could also be construed incorrectly. It is important for law enforcement officials to understand cultural diversity especially because they have direct relationships with people of their cities.

It is also important to remember that two people can look at the same thing and interpret it differently because of psychological perception and conditioning. Perception refers to the interpretation of what we take in through our senses. The way people perceive their environment is what makes them different from each other.


Shusta, Robert M. , Deena R. Levine, Herbert Z. Wong, and Philip R. Harris. Multicultural Law Enforcement: Strategies for Peacekeeping in a Diverse Society. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2005 Wentling, Rosemary. Diversity Training in the Workplace. Berkeley University.