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Number of Women in Policing Decreasing; Enormous Gender Gap Found in Rate of Police Brutality

National Center for Women & Policing Releases New Studies Showing Number of Women in Policing Decreasing; Enormous Gender Gap Found in Rate of Police Brutality

Gender Balance in Law Enforcement Urged at the Kick-off of Annual Conference of Women Police Leaders

Washington, DC – For the second consecutive year, the number of women in policing has declined, according to the latest survey conducted by the National Center for Women & Policing, a division of the Feminist Majority Foundation. The new survey, Equality Denied: The Status of Women in Policing 2001, analyzed data from a stratified random sample of 360 agencies from throughout the U.S., and is the fifth annual study conducted by the NCWP to gauge the status and growth of women in law enforcement. The percentage of women in police agencies with 100 or more sworn officers remains small in 2001 at 12.7%, and registered a decrease from 14.3% in 1999.

“The fact that the percentage of women in law enforcement is decreasing is alarming,” said Margaret Moore, Director of the National Center and the highest-ranking woman ever to have served in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF). “Not only is there a smaller percentage of women in policing, but women are virtually absent at the highest ranks of law enforcement, holding only 7.3% of top command positions,” continued Moore. “In fact, more than half (55.9%) of large agencies surveyed report no women in top command.”

“Widespread bias in police hiring, selection policies and recruitment practices keeps the numbers of women in law enforcement artificially low,” continued Moore. “And once on the job, women often face discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and are maliciously thwarted in their attempts to move up the ranks. At the present rate of growth, women will not achieve equality in police agencies for several generations, if ever,” concluded Moore.

“The cut back in affirmative action and the loss of consent decrees mandating the hiring and/or promotion of women and minorities has begun to reverse the very modest gains women made in policing over the last thirty years,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, the parent organization of the National Center for Women & Policing. Of the 247 agencies responding to this year’s survey, 40 indicated that they had once been under a consent decree for hiring women and/or minorities, but only 22 of those hiring decrees currently remain in effect. Citing the Department of Justice’s recent decision to withdraw from the Lanning v. South Eastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) case challenging discriminatory hiring tests, Smeal observed, “Without the willingness of the Department of Justice to bring lawsuits and negotiate consent decrees
to remedy discriminatory hiring practices by law enforcement agencies, the percentage of women in law enforcement will likely decrease further.”

A companion survey of a random sample of 384 smaller law enforcement agencies with fewer than 100 sworn personnel found that women comprise an even lower 8.1% of all officers, and hold only 3.4% of all top command positions. For these smaller and rural agencies, 97.4% have no women in top command. The survey of smaller agencies was conducted in conjunction with the Justice and Safety Center at Eastern Kentucky University.

“The under-representation of women in law enforcement has tremendous implications for communities served, especially for combating violence against women,” continued Smeal. “Female officers report greater support for the principles of community policing in comparison with their male colleagues, and female officers also respond more effectively to cases of domestic violence – which account for up to half of all violent crime calls to police agencies.”

Bolstering earlier research showing significant differences between male and female officer involvement in excessive force incidents, the National Center for Women

Media Resources: Feminist Majority Foundation

© Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine

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