Policing Gender in Law Enforcement

Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type




First Advisor

Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez


Law enforcement has always been a male dominated profession. Gender discrimination in law enforcement is an important topic because researchers have found that police departments will respond better to community needs when they can draw on the strengths of both women and men on the force. Female law enforcement officers can bring in skills that would be useful and complementary to male law enforcement officers, such as talking their way through a situation instead of using force. Nevertheless, previous research shows that female law enforcement officers are still stereotyped as weak and incapable or discriminated against for not appearing as masculine or following the masculine norm that appears within law enforcement culture. Female law enforcement officers placed in positions of power are most likely to create and promote diverse policies and procedures which would suit the needs of communities they serve. The research question being studied is what limitations do female law enforcement officers face which affects their job performance? How can law enforcement agencies increase the ranks of female officers? What obstacles and challenges do female officers continue to face on the job? This study was conducted through qualitative interviews which took place via phone call and took approximately 30-40 minutes each to complete. The study sample included 10 women of color female law enforcement officers; three African Americans, one Jamaican, and six Hispanics. Each officer has a college degree higher than an Associates Degree and over 10 years of experience in law enforcement. The recruitment process was reaching out to female law enforcement officers through email and then asking them if they knew any female law enforcement officer that would be willing to participate. Findings within this research shows that the limitations female officers face are managing work and family life, learning how to work within the profession in terms of transferring from one unit to the next, and maintaining expectations of being a tough yet capable officer who is able to do the job; to increase the ranks of female officers, there needs to be another efficient way to promote for leadership positions and better execution of legal decrees that have been implemented with law enforcement policies; and the obstacles and challenges female officers continue to face on the job are minimum quotas because of legal decrees, discriminatory behavior being recognized or passed as a cultural behavior or difference, and masculine standards.

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