History of Women in Law Enforcement


            Women involvement in law enforcement stated as early as the 10th century. In the Iceland, a place in which law enforcement was a private affair, women found themselves taking an active role in enforcing law. Women had a less active role in enforcing law in most of other places in the world. In most of the parts of the world, men were the ones who got involved in law enforcement. In most cases, women were docile when it came to issues of politics and justice. That was a ‘man’s affair.’ In some places in the 7th century, women were banished if they demonstrated any interest in justice of political affairs. It is argued that the imbalance in the law enforcement field was due gender discrimination. Women were always viewed as inferior. As a result, women enforced law through men. They would support their husbands from home as they did their house hold activities. They would also do it through the literature work. Others would wisely advice their husbands on how to handle the law and justice matters. With the emergence of women rights and gender equality movements, women got the freedom of getting involved in law enforcement openly. This tells us why we hear of many kings instead of queens. When the queens are heard, very few had judicial power. They were just companions of their kings.


            Women involvement in law enforcement started because of the need to protect women’s rights. Women have time and again faced violence in the hands of men. Involvement of women in law enforcement has acted as custody for women’s rights. Gender discrimination against women has been limited through women involvement in law justification. (Associated Content, 2008) Negative stereotypes that women have faced since time immemorial have been cancelled through women involvement in law enforcement.

            A program called National Center for Women and Policing was created from a need to create gender balance in the law enforcement field. In attempt to achieve gender equality, governments are integrating women in all the sectors of economy, law enforcement not an exceptional. The involvement of women in law enforcement has been used as a way of eliminating discrimination against women.

            Women have had less sophisticated roles in law enforcement. Women started from the matron career to policewomen then ascended the ladder to police offers. They constitute approximately 12% of any states police officers. It has been difficult to rise through the ranks and achieve higher posts. (Associated Content, 2008)

            However, women have made stretched their strides in non-traditional careers since 1960s. The radical changes in the modern societies and changes in the legal mandates have opened doors for women to enter law enforcement in recommendable numbers. The percentage has risen from 1% in the 1970’s to over 12% in the presentment days. Women have continued to leave legacy in the criminal justice field.

            The first woman to be hired in the criminal enforcement area in U.S.A was referred to as a ‘matron’. This was back in the 1845, in New York City in the Police Department. The year 1845 saw Penny Harrington of Portland Oregon Police Department as the pioneer female Chief of Police. This arched a new day for women in the police department. (Samaha, p. 40).

            Currently, the contribution of women in the police department has risen to 12.7% of all the sworn law enforcement positions in large agencies. Sad news is that this number is declining instead of inclining. Studies have shown that women constitute 46.6% of the total labor force. Yet those who constitute to the criminal enforcement are few. Small agencies in U.S have fewer than ten sworn offers.

It has been a question to many people concerning the decline in the women participation in the law enforcement department. Women have been proved to be as effective as men in delivering the law enforcement services. The most noted reason for the decline in the percentage of women law enforcers is the criteria for hiring, selecting and recruiting police officers. (Dumenil, 463) In most cases, uneven hiring of law enforcers is applied to all police officers irrespective of the gender. Women are screened out of the system earlier on in the selection process. The entry level tests that build on the candidate’s upper body strengths and, or past life experiences namely, military services overshadow women’s ability to serve in the department of law enforcement.

In other cases, women are to be blamed for the decline in the women participation in the law enforcement department. They never think of working in the police department. This is due to the misinterpretation of the nature of job it is. Some draw back when they consider the aggression and authoritarianism portrayed by the media concerning the job. (Dumenil, p. 548)

Others draw back because of the discrimination faced in the department once they are hired in the department. Such discriminations include sexual harassments and peer intimidations. The other problem that has often led to less involvement of women in the law enforcement department is lack of role model to emulate. The problem of lack of models and mentors for women has reduced the efficiency of women ascension up the law enforcement rank. As a result, many women are discouraged to take promotional exams in preference of their families and personal relationships.

These reasons have discouraged recruiters from considering women for law enforcement careers. (Scarborough & Collins, p.90) Recent changes in policing philosophies have highlighted on problem solving and community over intervention, bringing to inefficiencies and injustice. Reports from various poling departments in U.S have show that most cities are encountering excessive force and corruption scandals. All this misgivings are attributed to the male offers.

Women officers attribute different policing styles at all levels in the modern police agency. (Scarborough & Collins, p.109). This is because they rely less on physical force and more on communication skills. Women avoid chaos when enforcing law. Potentially violent confrontations are minimal in cases where women are the offers in change of law enforcement. This prevents citizen complaints and civil liabilities from occurring. This is clearly the implication of lack of woman policing officer in the law enforcement department.

Generally, the decline in the number of women representatives in the law enforcement department has a negative impact on the cultural orientation and the operational efficiency of law enforcement departments. There is an increased urgency for the recruitment of women police officers into the department to correct the career’s ethical problem. (Samaha, p. 79)

In conclusion, women have never lacked in the law enforcement department. However, there is a great challenge on the overall participation of womwn in the policing department throughout the world. There is a need for women to be educated on the nature of work law enforcement is. They also need to be encouraged to take up the challenges associated with the job since their gender wits in solving problems is highly valuable in the policing department, (Felperin, 2004).. The gender harassment faced by women in the department must also be addressed. Women should be protected from any discriminatory advancement in the job premises. The policing agencies should consider conducting different testing practices when selecting women for the law enforcement position. The agencies should put in mind that women are structurally different from men and they cannot contain upper body muscles equivalent to men’s. Yet, women are capable and qualify for the law enforcement position. Such corrections will increase women proportions in the department of law enforcement.


Dumenil, E. C. (2005). Through Womens Eyes an American History with documents.      Boston, MA, United States: Bedfort St. Martin.Scarborough, K. E & Collins, P. A. (2002). Women in Public and Private Law                            Enforcement. U.S.A Butterworth-Heinemann.

Samaha, J. (2005). Criminal Justice. U.S.A Thomson Wadsworth.

Felperin, J. (2004). Women in Law Enforcement: Two steps Forward, Three steps Back. Retrieved September 7, 2008, from                                                                                    <http://www.policeone.com/writers/columnists/JonFelperin/articles/87017-Women-in-Law-Enforcement-Two-steps-forward-three-steps-back>

Associated Content. (2008). Women and Law Enforcement. Retrieved September 7, 2008, from             <http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/15969/women_and_law_enforcement.html?cat=17>