Equity in policing and schools

Linda Purrington (lpurring@earthlink.net)
Sun, 24 May 1998 08:49:54 -0700

The following article presents some evidence of why equity is so hard to
achieve in society as a whole, and a major potential focus of
education-for-equity efforts. When policing is inequitable, enforcement
efforts are inequitable.

Let's translate that into the schools: If you have in the larger
community no adequate enforcement of laws against domestic violence, you
have that atmosphere reflected in the classroom. When you have that
atmosphere reflected in the classroom, you have a situation ripe for
ignoring potential school massacres such as have been lined up across
all our newspapers this past spring.

The superintendent of the Springfield, Oregon, schools said interests in
bombs, guns, animal mutilations, and murder were only what might be
expected of boys.(see the New York Times online.) This kind of
identification of violence with male roles needs to be stopped in the

To stop this kind of steretyping of male roles in the schools, we need
to make hiring of school superintendents and police in the community
Linda Purrington
Title IX Advocates

Women Harms Law Enforcement

The National Center for Women & Policing, a division of the
Feminist Majority Foundation, has released a study on the Status of Women in 100
of the largest law enforcement agencies in the country. The report, Equality
Denied: The Status of Women in Policing, examines the gains and gaps in the
numbers of women in policing and the major barriers keeping women from
increasing their numbers in law enforcement.

"The increase of women in law enforcement remains stuck at an
alarmingly slow rate," said Chief Penny Harrington, Director of the National
Center for Women & Policing. "Over the last 26 years, women have increased their
representation in sworn law enforcement positions to only 11.6% in 1997 from 2%
in 1972 -- or at an annual rate of gain of barely one-third of one percentage
point per year. At this present rate of growth, women will never achieve
equality in law enforcement agencies," continued Chief Harrington.

Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, commented, "The
data is clear that women have made progress only in police departments where
women officers and women's organizations have taken legal action to fight the
discriminatory hiring and promotion practices of law enforcement agencies, and
where court ordered consent decrees have forced agencies to increase the numbers
of women or minorities hired and promoted."

As detailed in the report, the barriers keeping women from entering law
enforcement include biased entry tests and recruitment policies that unfairly
favor men over women. "Experts agree that the single largest barrier to
increasing the numbers of women in policing is the attitudes and behavior of
their male colleagues," continued Smeal. "Nationwide studies consistently find
that discrimination and sexual harassment are pervasive in police departments
and that supervisors and commanders not only tolerate such practices by others,
but are frequently perpetrators themselves."

"The under-representation of women in policing is not just unfair - it is
perpetuating a style of policing which is outdated, ineffective, and enormously
costly to communities," said Kathy Spillar, National Coordinator of the
Feminist Majority Foundation. "Study after study shows that women officers are
not as likely as their male counterparts to be involved in the use of excessive

With lawsuits due to excessive force by male law enforcement millions of dollars
of taxpayer money every year, the actual and potential liability for cities and
states is staggering."

"Studies also show that women officers respond more effectively than their male
counterparts to violence against women, which accounts for up to 50% of all
calls to police. Yet this record stands in stark contrast to women's dramatic
under-representation in police departments where they make up less than 12% of
sworn officers nationwide," added Chief Harrington.

Key Findings:

In 1997, women comprise only 11.6% of all sworn law enforcement positions.

In the last seven years, women have increased their representation in sworn law
enforcement ranks by only 2.2 percentage points, from 9.4% in 1990 to 11.6% in

The gains for women in policing are so slow that, at the current rate of growth,
women will never reach equal representation or gender balance in law enforcement

Women hold only 7.4% of Top Command law enforcement positions, 8.8% of
Supervisory positions and 12.5% of Line Operation positions.

More than 20% of agencies report no women in Top Command law enforcement

Women hold 66% of lower-paid civilian law enforcement jobs.

State agencies trail local agencies by a wide margin. State agencies report 5.2%
sworn women law enforcement officers, while municipal agencies report 14%,
followed closely by county agencies with 13.1%.

Eight out of the 10 departments with the largest percentage of women in sworn
officer positions are under or have recently been under consent decrees to hire
women or minorities.

The accompanying table ranks all of the 100 agencies in the report
from the highest to lowest percentage of sworn women law enforcement officers.

[Source: National Center for Women and Policing - May 19, 1998]

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