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Effect of Tokenism on Female Police Officers

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Employment
Wordcount: 2722 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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The audiences for this persuasive research essay are for cadets at the police academy. Female officers are effective as male officers and how tokenism affects female officers in the work place.

Law enforcement is a demanding environment to work in. Police work is physically and mentally exhausting for officers each day. Colleagues at work underestimate each other at times. For example, Lynne Johnson responded to a call for an armed man threatening to commit suicide. A male officer responded to the call as well, and when he showed up, the officer saw two female officers and did not want to stick around because of this. Johnson and her partner handled the situation successfully and professionally (Wells 46). If the male officer had stayed he would have witnessed the female officers calming down the armed man from committing suicide and taking the gun away. Never underestimate someone just because that person may not be a man. Some situations can be handled through skills in communicating when done properly.

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Male officers have physical strength that a female officer may lack but on the other hand studies have shown that women have better verbal skills that help resolve dangerous situations (Gaines 111). Police officers should be treated as equals and trusted to be capable of doing their duties, especially where the duties are assigned according to the capabilities and training of the individual officers concerned. The police sergeant assigns partners when they patrol however at times some male officers may lack trust in a female partner to cover their back if a situation arises.

Tokenism is a token effort that demonstrates only minimal compliance with rules, laws or public pressure. Research has been done that shows how tokenism affects female officers and how it influences them from applying for leadership. As applied to the treatment of female officers tokenism refers to an opinion among some officers, both male and female, that efforts to provide equal opportunity to females in hiring and promotion are token gestures that create problems. Police officers who are in leadership have produced great works regardless of gender.

Some police department issues are not very well understood, especially tokenism for female officers. For those that are learning about the laws and workings of becoming a police officer the topic of tokenism is lightly touched upon. Many male officers feel that female officers are physically too weak, mentally soft and not suited for the demands that law enforcement makes (Gaines 111). Often some male officers feel the need to protect female officers from dangerous situations. When officers don’t trust each other in dangerous situations it can cause them to become less effective in protecting the citizens that they are entrusted with. Tokenism in the promotion process has discouraged female officers from applying for leadership. A study was done to compare promotion aspirations among male and female officers in a police agency in the mid-western United States. For male officers the effect is a lack of confidence in the promotion process. The female officers experience the effects of tokenism in feeling isolated at work, feeling second guessed by male colleagues, and receiving differential treatment because of their gender. This puts off females from participating in the promotion process (Archbold 298-300). Police departments have requirements to promote show diversity. Women often feel that they are just being encouraged to be promoted to meet that requirement (Gaines and Miller 111). Tokenism has held many females from progressing into leadership even though evidence has shown how much good they can do. One way to show how effective female officers can be is to tell true stories of outstanding female officers. Officers from the past can teach us a great deal of courage and dedication to their job.

In 1925, Maude Collins became the first female sheriff in the state of Ohio. Her husband was the sheriff until he was killed while on duty. The citizens chose Maude to replace her husband because they had faith she would do a great job. Collins did her duties and spent as much time as possible with her five children. She proved her worth by solving a double murder. Collins did this by investigating the home and showing how the murderer used the victim’s shoes to create misleading footprints at the crime scene. Maude subsequently persuaded the female, whom she had suspected all along, to confess to wearing the shoes of another, who had previously been the primary male suspect (Neil). The true story about Maude Collins is a great example of how any intelligent, motivated male or female can make a great sheriff. Cadets or students who are not aware of this should learn that a sheriff of any gender can prove their worth in time.

The impact of one police officer in a police department can encourage future officers to become capable of handling the duties assigned to them. In 1910 the Los Angeles Police Department hired Alice Stebbins Wells which made her the nation’s first police woman. Wells’ first duty as officer was supervision and enforcing law concerning dance halls, skating rinks and other similar places of public recreation. She later fought for the idea that women as members of municipal police departments are particularly well qualified to perform protective and preventive work among juveniles and female criminals. Female officers were assigned after some time to perform these duties. Other duties the women were assigned were patrol, delinquency prevention, investigations of crimes involving juveniles, and other cases where females were deemed necessary. Alice Wells will be remembered by introducing female officers capable of taking on more duties (N.P). A person can take a stand into introduce an idea that can help improve on who gets assigned to preform what duties just like Wells.

The impression made by one officer can help better the work by demonstrating how women are capable of handling more responsibilities. Female officers since Alice Stebbins Wells have been assigned more fields to work in. The different positions that any gender can apply for are DEA agent, FBI agent, NSA officer, CIA agent, and many others that are now available. Each one of those field needs a college degree which both males and females can get.

Senior female special agent Cassandra Chandler has shown great skill and proven herself capable of handling more duties and has moved up in rank. Mrs. Chandler is now in charge of the Norfolk field office. Mrs. Chandler is responsible for managing and leading all of the FBI’s investigations and operations in Norfolk, VA and the 17 surrounding counties (Fbijobs). Police officers are always improving their skills in different areas throughout their whole career. At times an officer might not want to admit that they need more training in an area which is weak.

All police officers have different weaknesses and strengths that can hinder the work or move it forward. Gathering evidence is very important in police work because it helps to put dangerous criminals away from the public. Conducting building searches is very important in law enforcement. Officers clear a building to make sure all threats have been neutralized. The forensic team goes into the building after it is cleared of all threats to gather evidence. The Philadelphia Police Department did a study that showed that female officers could not perform building searches very well (Cox 319). Searches of a building are vital in police work and if female officers can’t perform this important duty then criminals will take advantage of this and keep hold of the building. When searches are done poorly evidence that could be in the building can be destroyed and hostages can be even more endangered. The criminals get more violent when threatened and become more erratic which escalates the situation. Citizens lose faith in the police department when they see that officers can’t protect them from dangerous situations. Police officers are watched very closely by citizens waiting for them to make a mistake. Police departments are aware of this and make sure that their officers are getting the training needed to be able to perform their duties with precision. The study that was done in Philadelphia Police Department does not mean all female officers in all departments have problems clearing a building. Female officers from the past have shown that they are able to perform their duties well and help future female officer gain more responsibilities (Cox 319). Gaining the trust of the community helps officers being criminals to justice.

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 Patrol duty is important in police work because it gains the trust of the neighborhood the police are assigned to watch over. Philadelphia Police Department performed a study that showed that female officers failed to perform patrol duties as well as male officers (Cox 319). Police are more effective if they get the citizens to trust them because citizens will be more willing to give information that would help with an investigation and help to keep the neighborhood safer. The police department requires that all officers meet a standard to work for them.

Police officers must be physically fit to perform their duties in the field. At times criminals run when they have just committed a crime. Officers are required to pass the fitness test at the academy. The police force in England and Wales showed that of 13,024 officers who completed the test 353 test had failed.  Almost 70 percent of those that failed were female officers (Evans). Keeping in shape and healthy shows other officers that one is ready to go when called. Police officers must be able to trust each other when going into a dangerous environment. When a situation gets physically violent some male officers prefer not having a female officer cover their back.  Some male officers feel that they would have to protect the female officer which can cause them both to get hurt. A male officer in 1980 said this “I want someone who can back me up…..I don’t want someone I have to back up (Wells 47)”. At times, physical strength is required but a police officer must do everything possible not to resort to physical violence. If the situation during the confrontation gets violent and the officer uses excessive force on the subject that officer in question can be let go. The police department may get sued for using excessive force when there was no need for it. Citizens in that area will lose faith which hurts the department. The academy teaches officers when to act with lethal force so that no legal action is taken against the officer.

Police officers make quick decisions when deadly fire is exchanged. An officer must decide whether to confront the threat him/herself or wait for back up.  Some officers in these situations find out for the first time if they have what it takes to take a life. A famous incident occurred recently in Fort Hood, Texas where a 34 year old Iraq veteran open fired on others at the military base.  The man named Ivan Lopez killed three people and wounded 16 people before he was stopped.  A military policewomen was the one that made the quick decision to act and go in alone instead of waiting for back up. The female officer spotted Ivan Lopez coming towards her and made the decision to open fire, which caused Ivan to kill himself after retaining wounds from her gun (McLaughlin). The military female officer’s name has not been released yet. Some officers would have waited for back up rather than going into a situation where gunfire is being exchanged.  The female officer showed a lot of courage and bravery in taking action. Both male and female officers have shown acts of courage and bravery. At the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington D.C there are both male and female officers buried there who have shown their devotion in serving their country.

Police officers are to protect the people and enforce the law when necessary. When a person threatens to hurt others an officer must be able to calm that person down. An officer must only use lethal force when necessary as the last option. An officer named Lt. Jim Glennon said “The most important skills for criminal justice professionals to master are those skills associated with the art and science of communication” (Neil).  Talking a person down from committing an act that would put people in danger is the best choice an officer can make. Police officers should do everything they can not to take a life, as their duty is to protect and not take life. Research done by Gaines and Cox has shown that female officers have a significant edge in verbal skills. These skills that female officers bring help balance the scales with male officers. When nonlethal force is used in public, people see that police officers desire to bring that person alive not dead. For a lot of police officers it hurts them mentally to take a life. Some police officers’ families suffer along with them. Police officers must go through counseling when they kill someone in action. Officers get back to their duties when everything that is required is done. The action to take a life is costly to an officer, and the department always takes care of them. Communication skills are taught at the police academy officers are encouraged to keep practicing afterwards.  

 Police departments have budget cut backs which affect how many people they can hire. A study estimated that 53 percent of counties are working with fewer staff today than just one year ago (COPS).  Departments need to make sure that they hire dependable officers who can work effectively and not hinder the work. Officers of each gender should be given a chance to prove how capable they are in handling their duties. Male and female officers bring different skills to do effective police work.

Law enforcement demands a lot from an individual both mentally and physically. Officers make decisions that affect themselves and families especially when taking a life. Female officers have demonstrated strengths that prevent dangerous situations from escalating Police officers should be treated as equals and trusted each other while on duty. Police departments are capable of achieving much more where male and female officers acknowledge that they have the same goals to protect the people and enforce the law, and they build on each other’s strengths to achieve those goals.

Works Citied

  • Archbold, Carol A, et al. “Comparing promotion aspirations among female and male police officers” International Journal of Police and Management 12.2 (2010): 287-303 Web. 14 Feb 2014.
  • Cox, Steven M, et al. Introduction to Policing 2nd ed: SAGE Publication Inc, 2013. Print. Web. 6 March. 2014.
  • COPS community Oriented Policing Services. The Impact of the Economic Downturn on American Police Agencies, 2010. COPS. Web. 6 Mar. 2014.
  • Evans, Martin. The Telegraph. Hundreds of policewomen fail fitness tests. The Telegraph, 2014. Web. 6 Mar. 2014.
  • Fbijobs. Federal Bureau of Investigation Careers. Notable Senior Female Special Agents. Web. 9 April 2014
  • Gaines, Larry K., and Roger LeRoy Miller. Criminal Justice in Action, The Core. 7th ed. Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2013. Print.
  • N.p, Lapdonline. Women in the LAPD, 2014. Web.17 Feb. 2014.
  • McLaughlin, Eliot C. CNN Justice. Again, a female cop is hero at Fort Hood. 2014. Web. 9 April 2014
  • Neil, Richard. Law Enforcement Today. Law Enforcement Today, 8 Nov. 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2014.
  • Wells, Sandra K, and Betty L. Alt. Police Women Life with the Badge. Westport Connecticut London. 2005. Print.


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