Gender issues in policing have traditionally been ignored by research and policy efforts, leading to gender crisis in the police industry worldwide (Brown and Heidensohn 2000). As a result, research models on policing are centred on males just as the police profession is dominated by men and is often associated with masculinity (Brown and Heidensohn 2000). Hence, there is the need to significantly incorporate female police officers into contemporary research approaches and policy frameworks in order to correct the gender inequities prevalent in the police sector.
This paper therefore appraises the extent to which females are dominated by males in the police sector and reasons accounting for the gender inequity. The paper also examines the trends in women policing and further discusses the benefits of increasing the capacities and strengthening the roles of women in policing. The Extent of Underrepresentation of Policewomen A survey conducted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has shown that there are few policewomen as compared to policemen, and policewomen are both underused and undervalued in law enforcement (Horne 2006).
Policewomen constitute only 13-14% of the entire police force in the United States (Horne 2006). It also became evident from the 100th anniversary of the International Women’s Day in Bangladesh that policewomen in Britain constitute only 25% of the entire police force; 19. 1% in Singapore; 16. 5% in Australia; 5. 3% in Sri Lanka; 3% in India; with Bangladesh having as low as 2% (Bangladesh2day 2010). Major Reasons Behind the Underrepresentation of Policewomen Discrimination is one of the main factors that accounts for the low ratio of policewomen to policemen (Horne 2006). Discrimination against policewomen manifests itself in several ways.
While many law enforcement departments lack strategies for recruiting policewomen (Horne 2006), others have few mentoring programmes for the development of female police officers (International Association of Chiefs of Police 1998). Female officers also face bias from male officers (Horne 2006). A research conducted on delegates from the European Network of Policewomen’s (ENP) Conference held in Hungary in 1995 and the joint ENP/International Association of Women Police (IAWP) Conference held in Birmingham in 1996 has indicated a low acceptance of policewomen by their men counterparts (Brown 1996).
Only 6% of policemen accepted policewomen in the US, as compared to 16% in Western Europe, 17% in Great Britain and 28% in Eastern Europe (Brown 1996). Gender bias against policewomen can probably reduce their level of job satisfaction, which may in turn discourage them from rising through the ranks in the police service. Policewomen are also discriminated against in terms of promotion and training opportunities (Horne 2006; Brown 1996). Data from the ENP and the joint ENP/IAWP conferences have shown that only about 45% of policewomen are promoted in the USA; 18% in Britain; 26% in Western Europe; and 14% in Eastern Europe (Brown 1996).
Similarly, only 14% of policewomen receive training opportunities in Eastern Europe as compared to 24% in Western Europe, 25% in Britain and 47% in the US (Brown 1996). Lack of promotion and training opportunities for policewomen may adversely affect their performance, confidence level and professional development. This can probably discourage other women from joining the police workforce. Sexual harassment is another major reason accounting for the low numbers of policewomen (Brown 1996).
Research data from the ENP and the joint ENP/IAWP conferences have revealed that 3% of policewomen in Western Europe often suffer from sexual harassment; 5% among policewomen in Britain; and 15% among policewomen in the United States (Brown 1996). Sexual harassment can probably have psychological effects on policewomen, which can in turn reduce their productivity and possibly cause them to exit the police service. Current Trends in Women Policing The state of women in policing has been improving over the years (Horne 2006). In 1971 women accounted for only 1.
4% of all police officers in the USA, as compared to over 13% in 2006 (Horne 2006), and they now serve in various capacities throughout the country (Horne, 2006). Some of the legal and cultural barriers that confronted policewomen have been removed (Horne 2006). The mass media is now positive about the policewoman and is helping to change negative attitudes about female police officers (Horne 2006). Many state, regional, national and international associations have emerged to support and promote the interests of policewomen (Horne 2006).
There are indications that women considering a career in policing today may not experience the hardships that confronted policewomen in the past (Horne 2006). Nevertheless, policewomen are still marginalised in all positions within the police service (Horne 2006). There is therefore the need to completely remove all the obstacles facing policewomen in order to improve their status and enhance their contribution to the progress of the police sector (Horne 2006). The Benefits of Female Policing The active involvement of women in policing may yield many benefits to the police service and the community at large.
Policewomen can help to improve police response to female victims of domestic violence because policewomen have been found to demonstrate more sympathy and skill in handling domestic disputes than policemen (Horne 2006). Thus, female police officers can enable female victims to have a lot of confidence in the police service and encourage them to report cases of domestic violence which would otherwise go unnoticed (Horne 2006). Another benefit of having more policewomen is that female police officers generally tend to use less physical force and are less confrontational than policemen (Horne 2006).
This style of policing practised by most policewomen is very important to the police service because police agencies have lost lawsuits often involving huge sums of money to settle excessive force suits brought by citizens (Horne 2006). Thus, the police departments can significantly reduce their vulnerability to excessive force lawsuits if more women are recruited as police officers and are actively involved in all operational areas of policing (Horne 2006). Conclusions Discrimination and sexual harassment against policewomen are probably the major obstacles to effective policing.
Attitudinal change in recent times in favour of policewomen is probably the defining moment for the attraction, development and optimum use of female talents in the police service. Policewomen can play complementary and special roles in law enforcement if given equal support and opportunities as policemen. In the long term, the promotion of female policing can contribute to the achievement of the 3rd millennium development goal, which seeks to promote gender equality and empower women. Works Cited Bangladesh2day. Policewomen Account for Two Percent of Police Force. Metropolitan News of 9th March 2010. Online News Portal, 2010. Web.
7th Jul. 2010. Brown, Jennifer, and Heidensohn, Frances. Gender and Policing: Comparative Perspectives. London: Macmillan Press Ltd, 2000. Print. Brown, Jennifer. Integrating Women into Policing: A Comparative European Perspective. Ljubljana: College of Police and Security Studies of Slovenia, 1996. Web. 7th Jul. 2010. Horne, Peter. Policewomen: Their First Century and the New Era. The Police Chief Magazine, 73. 9 (2006). Web. 8th Jul. 2010. International Association of Chiefs of Police. The Future of Women in Policing: Mandates for Action. Alexandria: The International Association of Chiefs of Police, 1998. Web. 10th Jul. 2010.