NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Do Women Shun Careers As Police Officers?

March 30, 2000

Police departments are continuing to have trouble recruiting and retaining women. But experts and observers differ on the reasons. Feminist activists claim the greatest obstacle is the attitude and behavior of male colleagues. But officials of the Fraternal Order of Police point out that few women want to go into law enforcement, particularly with more attractive opportunities available elsewhere, particularly with the strong economy.

  • A report from the National Center for Women & Policing places the proportion of sworn female police officers in the nation's larger forces at 14.3 percent.
  • That is half a percentage point higher than in 1999.
  • In 1990, women made up 9 percent of police ranks.
  • About 5.1 percent of today's female officers hold higher ranks.

What is the particular need for female police officers? Penny Harrington, former Portland, Ore. police chief, said "the focus on communications and problem solving in today's police work makes women more valuable officers," due to personal skills they are taught as girls.

Source: Gary Fields, "Study: Police Forces Lack Female Officers," USA Today, March 30, 2000.


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