While addressing the latest academy class, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore boasted that it is the most diverse group in the department’s history. Not only did African Americans and Hispanics represent the majority of recruits, but women outnumbered men 27 to 21.
Despite the landmark enrollment, most law enforcement organizations, large and small, have made limited progress in attracting more women to the profession. The Bureau of Justice Statistics places the national average of sworn women police officers at approximately 13%, where it has hovered since the mid-1980s, according to research cited by the U.S. Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice.
Still, other studies suggest a greater presence of women in the police workforce delivers positive outcomes. Illinois State University Associate Dean and Professor Cara Rabe-Hemp, a subject matter expert on women in policing, told texasstandard.org that women might actually help agencies lessen lawsuit payouts.
“Female police officers are less likely to use force against citizens, especially excessive force. [Women are] less likely to be named in citizen complaints and citizen lawsuits, which saves taxpayers and agencies millions of dollars,” she explained.
Rabe-Hemp also stated female cops appear more likely to file domestic violence and sexual assault reports, as well as follow up on the incidents, than their male counterparts.
Maureen McGough, chief of staff at the New York University School of Law’s Policing Project, also says women as a whole have greater emotional intelligence, so they tend to approach situations with the intent to mitigate conflict through de-escalation and communication.
“[That’s] probably the most important thing for police officers to have,” she told thecrimereport.org.
Both researchers suspect there are many reasons behind the lack of appeal for women to choose careers as cops, including the current negativity bestowed on law enforcement. However, they also highlight the fact that departments’ physical requirements serve as a possible barrier to entry because the emphasis on upper-body strength favors men.
“We don’t want to try and force departments to have to hire people who are less qualified in order to meet an arbitrary gender quota,” cautioned McGough. Instead, they recommend agencies reevaluate skill requirements.
“One of the major frustrations of this is we really don’t know if that’s a necessary physical requirement to do policing well,” said Rabe-Hemp.
Indeed, former Newark (New Jersey) Police Chief Ivonne Roman told thecrimereport.org that being analytical, a good communicator and nonreactive are as important for the job as having strength and physical ability.