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Discrimination Against Women Police Officers in the USA

Abstract

This research aims to recognize and identify the discrimination of female police officers by the society, male coworkers and the entire police department in the United States. Law enforcement has existed as one of the greatest male-dominated occupation. Demographic changes have taken place in the US population resulting in the increased number of women seeking employment in various sectors. The last two decades have witnessed the rise in the number of women in policing, though, they face obstacles. Documenting and understanding the number of women in law enforcement is not only important but also provides part of the story. It is also equally significant to gain insight into female police officers because it reveals the degree of discrimination in the law enforcement. This study deploys secondary sources of data to discuss the discrimination of women in the police.

Summary

Police departments across the United States have made significant progress in employment, representation and progression of women police offices for over the last decade. The current law enforcement body has more female officers and staff than in the previous years. However, the under-representation of women in higher ranks is still a major issue in many police departments across the US. The major reason for the under-representation of women in the law enforcement stems from discrimination. Male police officers and the society discriminate against women by treating them differently.

Men have developed inferior and stereotypic attitudes that tend to constrain the ability of law enforcement agencies to recruit or promote female police officers to higher ranks. As such, women police officers are making extremely slow progress towards full involvement in policing because of obstacles such as male officers’ attitude. Occupationally, men have always regarded the status of women to be lower than theirs. Very traditional societies assign women very minor roles, while major roles are assigned to men. Law enforcement in such societies tends to have few women serving in higher ranks in the police department.

Female officers tend to face both external and internal obstacles when trying to get job promotions through departmental ranks. The internal obstacles include negative assessments from male supervisors or training officers and supervisory biases. External obstacles might include differences between work and family roles. These roles involve balancing work-related duties and child-care duties. The society considers women to be the primary homemakers and caregivers in many households across the United Sates.

Women officers face both racial and gender discrimination. Studies affirm that both white and black female officers have faced discrimination because of their sex or race. In addition, many female officers strongly believe that they are victims of discrimination. The greatest discrimination of female police officers originates from their fellow male officers. The attitudes of men can easily deter women who want to pursue a career in law enforcement from doing so.

Introduction

There is a shortage of women in the higher ranks of many police organizations across the United States, although it is relatively common for females and males to work together . Law enforcement agencies continue underutilizing women despite the claim that employment of women in police organization is steadily increasing. This has made many gender activist groups to purport that the scarcity of women in the police profession results from ingrained biasness within this male subjugated profession. Does the under-representation of women clearly indicate an intended decision in order for women to avoid the profession? Nevertheless, some studies point out that lack of substantial mass of female employees undermines the capability of women to excel in law enforcement. The number of women in police profession has increased in the past two decades, although the struggle of women police officers to be acknowledged by law enforcement agencies concurrently reflects the exacerbation women experience during the process of making their way into the labor force. Female police officers continue experiencing discrimination and under-representation despite the fact that it is outlawed under the Supreme Constitution. Various studies have made conclusions that women have steadily acculturated into the police subculture while facing varying levels of discrimination and sexual harassment . According to the research findings, female police officers continue facing countless obstacles to full involvement in the police profession. As such, some professional and community groups have exerted massive pressure on police department to hire minority and women police officers. In light of this, the research discusses the discrimination against women in the police profession in the United States.

Inferior Attitudes and Stereotypes about Women

Inferior attitudes and gender stereotypes men have about women tend to constrain the ability of law enforcement agencies to recruit and retain qualified women . This cause of discrimination against women in the police force stems the perception that police is a male-dominated profession. Women police officers are making extremely slow progress towards full involvement in policing because of such obstacles as male officers’ attitude. According to a study conducted on female police officers, the occupational traditions exhibited masculine tone. This study also indicated that despite women in the police profession fulfill all the academic and physical standards, they experience discrimination resulting from the stereotypic behavior of men . According to another study, male police officers feel very demeaned and threatened because women perform like them. This exposes the masculine characteristic related to male police officers and the major role of men as protectors . Historically, the society has regarded the law enforcement as the occupation of men and many men continue holding the extremely negative perception of women. Men in the society feel that women should not seek employment in the police force because they are too emotional, physically unable, insufficiently aggressive, na?ve, and unable to gain respect.

Women have constantly had a lower occupational status than their male colleagues . Indeed, the gap between men and women differs across cultures and time. For example, in extremely traditional cultures, women play minor roles in the police force. On the other hand, women police officers in the modernized cultures play major roles in law enforcement. The United Nations summed up this inequality in 1980. According to the United Nations, women perform approximately two-thirds of the world’s work; however, they earn about one tenth of the income and one hundredth of property of the world. From a biblical perspective, according to scriptures God told Moses that a woman is worth 30 shekels while a man is worth 50 shekels . From this perspective, one can conclude that current discrimination against women might have stemmed from this Biblical point of view. Reflecting back to time, men viewed women to be inferior to them. Despite changes in time, many people still uphold such beliefs that are continuing to affect the involvement of women in the law enforcement.

Apparently, discrimination against women and gender inequality are deeply embedded in law enforcement due to attitudes and expectations of the society. Another study also agrees that female police officers experience barriers when working in the male-dominated law enforcement area . In agreement to this, the major barrier faced by women police officers is to overcome the negative attitudes of male police officers and break the invisible glass ceiling that hinders employment opportunities.

Internal Obstacles

While male and female police officers might not exhibit varying levels of job satisfaction, female officers tend to face both external and internal obstacles when trying to get job promotions through departmental ranks . The internal obstacles include negative assessments from male supervisors or training officers and supervisory biases. The supervisory biases frequently keep women officers out of high-status assignments. Many law enforcement agencies deny transfer of high-profile units such as gang units, SWAT and training to women officers. These agencies give women transfers into units such as child, abuse, community relations and domestic violence, which are stereotypically female issues.

According to the research findings, women police officers face unique forms of stress at workplace associated with the status of their subgroup and profanity sex jokes at workplace . Indeed, while police officers have some common reasons for resignation from police duties, female police officers give discrimination as a cause for resignation. In addition, tools structured to improve female integration into the police force ultimately have the outcome of raising segmentation or divisions and tensions in the workforce. As a result, women from minority communities tend to face higher levels of internal obstacles when compared to their counterparts from the majority.

External Obstacles

External obstacles might include differences between work and family roles . These roles involve balancing work-related duties and child-care duties. The society considers women to be the primary homemakers and primary caregivers in many households across the United Sates. This poses a burden of holding down occupational responsibilities and taking care of the home resulting in many obstacles, especially related to unpredictability and scheduling requirements of police occupation. Many police departments in the US are not knowledgeable on how to treat female officers during their pregnancy period or after return to work. Another primary issue facing female police officers in some police departments is the absence of formal maternity leave policy. The contradictory way in which female police officers were treated resulted in some women doing some light duty desk jobs. Other police department required female police officers to continue with official job obligations such as patrolling up to their sixth month of pregnancy. Moreover, the studies indicate that the conflict between work-family roles and child-care issues have affected job satisfaction and participation in the promotional process. The poor performance resulting from these conflicts has made police departments to downgrade women and, thus, discriminate them from high-profile job positions. Various researches have differed over the conflicts, since some consider these conflicts to be outstanding issues for both male and female officers while other suggest that they have significant effect on women officers.

Discrimination Stemming from Occupational Norms

Another cause of women discrimination is occupational norms, which simply imply that men and women are different; therefore, they should do different things . Early researches and literature show that women employed in traditional male occupations face discrimination and opposition when being given assignments. Despite the changes taking place in the society, gender-related norms stand out dominant. According to another research, many women are constantly reminded of the stereotypes existing in the workplace. The current picture of the world, where women are continuously trying to prove their abilities and worthy contributions to men worsens the issue of workplace discrimination. Women’s continuous efforts to achieve top positions do not please men. Law enforcement ranks the highest among male-dominated occupations .

Occupational behavior is another factor that contributes to the discrimination of women police officers . According to some studies, the socially agreed standards guide the occupational behavior. The agreed standards determine the manner in which individuals enact gender within the large context of social structures. Gender emerges in interactions and is not a fixed characteristic of individuals. This implies that men’s exhibition of masculine attribute and women’s exhibition of feminine attribute result from daily social interactions leading to gender norms at workplace. As such, women entering male-dominated occupations face discrimination issues because of this norms and expectations of appropriate behavior. Women can either choose to accept subculture that embraces discrimination or stop pursuing a career in police occupation. Women who decide to accept how the society perceives them must choose to put up with the assigned characteristics while on the job.

Discrimination Resulting from Disparities in Police Training

Discrimination against women in police force also results from the nature of training academy . The training of police officers requires men to have a higher level of strength and fitness than women. This gives male police officers a reason to stereotype women officers as weak, passive and incapable of handing themselves in circumstances requiring physical strength. Altering the standards because of gender issues will encourage women to adapt to the job making them different instead of relying on solidarity . In addition, many police academies do not emphasize on interpersonal skills that are necessary in the daily work of a police officer. Male police officers tend to have the interpersonal skills while women might not have them. Police academies’ failure to fully implement the skills into training deprives women of the work-related quality in which they are likely to predominate.

Structural Aspects of the Police Profession

The myriad number of barriers faced by women upon entering the police profession is profound . These obstacles originate from the structural aspects of the work organization and police profession. Women joining the police profession are disadvantaged because of their biological creation. The behavioral standards of the police culture set the tone for the negative involvement of women in law enforcement. Women police officers need to deal with daily stressors and cope up with large amount of barriers and dilemmas. The vulnerabilities of women increase as they join law enforcement. Because women are joining a male-dominated occupation, discriminations are bound to take place. This is because of the vast population of men as compared to the number of female officers. According to the studies, the major barrier that results in discrimination of women police officers is the attitude of male co-coworkers.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 focuses its attention on persons’ discrimination at work. This act outlaws employment discrimination because of color, religion, race, sex, or nationality. Nevertheless, the act does not precisely give a clear picture of the description of discrimination. In relation to sex discrimination at workplace, the goal of Title VII is to strike at the entire spectrum of women and men sexual stereotypes. This implies that in order to forbid all women from being police officers, law enforcement agencies must be capable of proving that no women do the police job . The criminal justice system provides an opportunity to assess if police departments treat women and men differently according to their physical characteristics. The Supreme Court has also taken the initiative to ban women discrimination not only in the police workplace but also in other workplaces. The Supreme Court instigated the Equal Protection Clause, which was a major development. The Supreme Court had refused to include gender discrimination of women in the Equal Protection Clause prior to the 1970s.

Sexual Harassment and Discrimination

Sexual harassment and discrimination are pervasive in many police departments. This is because commanders and supervisors tolerate and perpetrate these practices. For example, male police officers from the Los Angeles Police Department formed a group called Men against Women. The purpose of this group was to orchestrate a campaign of intimidation, ritual harassment and criminal activity against female police officers. Many women have resorted to resign from carrying out police duties because of the unchecked, unpunished and unrelenting abuse in police department. Male police officers intimidate, harass and thwart women officers especially when they reach top positions in the management.

Racial and Gender Discrimination

It is also not surprising that, women officers face both racial and gender discrimination. Some studies reported that both white and black female officers have faced discrimination because of their sex or race. In addition, many female officers strongly believe that they are victims of discrimination. According to study findings, 17 out of 27 female officers felt that their fellow male officers discriminated them. Despite recent research and literature indicating some progress, female police officers feel discrimination in law enforcement agencies. Having increased their presence in law enforcement occupations, women are still to be accepted in such male-dominated occupations.

In addition to the obstacles faced by women police officers, male police officers’ attitude plays a crucial part in women’s role in policing . The greatest discrimination of female police officers originates from their fellow male officers. The attitudes of men can easily deter women from pursuing a career in law enforcement industry. Women police officers tend to face isolation and hostility from male police officers. As a result, the greatest obstacles to employing women in police patrol positions do not emanate from their performance, but originate from discrimination from male officers. The reluctance of men to acknowledge women positively in policing questions their lack of experience and incapability to deal with dangerous circumstances. Men officers feel that women officers on patrol mean that men’s physical superiority is irrelevant .

Conclusion

Women police officers across the United States continue facing discrimination due to various reasons. The struggle of women police officers to be acknowledged by law enforcement agencies concurrently reflects the exacerbation women experience during the process of making their way into the labor force. Inferior attitudes and gender stereotypes men have about women tend to constrain the ability of law enforcement agencies to recruit and retain qualified women. Women police officers suffer unique forms of stress associated with the status of their subgroup and profanity sex jokes at workplace. The obstacles faced by women police officers originate from the structural aspects of the work organization and police profession.

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