USA – History of US FEMALE Police Officers – Not Enough
Date: July 27, 2016
USA – Female Police Officers Can Save Lives
Credit Victor J. Blue for The New York Times
By AMY STEWART*- JULY 26, 2016
A HUNDRED years ago this week, Georgia Ann Robinson joined the Los Angeles police force, making her, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, the nation’s first African-American policewoman.
At first she worked for no pay, with no official uniform, and, as The Los Angeles Times reported, her duties were limited to caring for “delinquents of her own race.” Before entering law enforcement, she had founded civic groups for African-American women, and pressured homes for unwed mothers and orphanages to accept African-Americans.
“In my present position I expect to accomplish much good,” she told the newspaper. “In fact, so much has already been done through this new office that there is no end to its possibilities.”
In 1916, police departments were changing because citizens demanded it. Officer Robinson and her pioneering sisters insisted that adding women to the police force would make for better, safer policing. A century later, they’ve been proved right.
Studies show that female officers are significantly less likely to be involved in instances of excessive force or police brutality. Policewomen are also one-third to one-fourth as likely to fire their weapons, probably saving many lives: In New York and Los Angeles, policewomen commit roughly 5 percent of shootings, while making up just under 20 percent of sworn officers.
Women make up only about 12 percent of sworn officers nationwide. Katherine Spillar, the executive director of the Feminist Majority Foundation, which runs the National Center for Women and Policing, pointed out that “80 percent to 95 percent of police work involves nonviolent, service-related activities and interactions with people in the community to solve problems — the kind of policing that appeals to women.” Her organization has called for emphasizing conflict resolution and judgment over brute physical strength in police academy training programs. She also calls for more female-friendly recruitment practices, and an end to discrimination and harassment by fellow officers, a persistent problem in many departments.
If Georgia Ann Robinson were here today, she might well wonder why we haven’t accomplished that already, considering how long we’ve been at it.
Women entered law enforcement in 1845, when the American Female Reform Society demanded the appointment of matrons to New York City’s jail and insane asylum, with the goal of protecting female inmates from mistreatment by male guards.
In the early 20th century, police departments started sending out female employees to monitor dance halls and saloons, places where women might engage in prostitution or be preyed upon by men. Although they were granted the title “policewoman,” they were rarely given arrest authority or job duties on par with their male counterparts.
The idea of a woman doing a man’s job was met with ridicule: “Lily Pines for a ‘Billy’” was the Washington Times headline when, in 1894, Lily Thompson applied to the Washington police department and demanded a job. (She was turned down.) Constance Kopp, a deputy sheriff in Hackensack, N.J., made headlines in 1915 for doing what male deputies did every day: She chased down a male suspect and threw the cuffs on him. The sheriff who had hired her faced fierce criticism for putting a woman in that position.
By 1930, there were only 1,534 women employed nationwide as law enforcement officers. By 1960, that number had inched up to 5,617 — 2.3 percent of officers. Some did move up the ranks: Violet Hill Whyte, Baltimore’s first African-American policewoman, advanced to lieutenant in 1967. But most women were still treated as a sort of ladies’ auxiliary to the police force. In 1966, the first women to graduate from Albuquerque’s police academy were put to work in the records department, freeing up men for crime fighting.
It wasn’t until employment law changed in 1972 that female officers won the right to go out on patrol, make arrests and serve equally alongside men — which is to say that they could sue their employer if they were prohibited from doing so on the basis of gender. Those lawsuits started immediately and continue today: In 2011, Kathleen Green won a suit over the Los Angeles Airport police’s failure to promote her to captain.
It shouldn’t take a lawsuit, or (as was the case in 1845 and for many decades after) a committee of outraged wives and mothers, to bring more women into policing. Police departments shouldn’t recruit or promote women just because a judge orders them to, or because of some abstract notion that diversity is a noble goal. The fact is that female officers save lives. They’re good at the job, and have been proving it for 171 years.
*Amy Stewart is the author of the novel “Lady Cop Makes Trouble,” based on Constance Kopp, one of the nation’s first female deputy sheriffs.