Women in Law Enforcement

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Updated: Mar 14, 2023
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In the past few years, women in law enforcement have been facing many challenges in their job. They have had to undergo discrimination, unfairness, and sexual harassment. This was exposed by the #MeToo movement that was spread across social media. Women experienced an increase in representation as full-time sworn law enforcement officers during the 1980s and 1990s, growth has slowed down in recent years, but women continue to be underrepresented in law enforcement (Sexual Harassment, 2018).

Why has the growth slowed down? One reason is because of sexual harassment in the workplace.

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This paper will focus on female victims of sexual harassment in Law Enforcement. A survey was done among women in law enforcement from 35 countries revealed that 77% of women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. This is a very large percent and it should be concerning (Sexual Harassment, 2018). With this information, Sexual harassment is under-reported misconduct that needs to be addressed and be compared to other professions of reported sexual harassment cases.

The Significance of Sexual Harassment in Law Enforcement

Sexual harassment in law enforcement is very significant because it affects diversity in the workplace and the public perception of police departments and how they’re operated. Sexual harassment among women police officers is a growing problem. There was a study done by the police quarterly. In the study, 679 male and female employees from a large law enforcement agency reported being a victim of inappropriate behaviors. (Police Quarterly, 2013). Very few complaints were reported to their superiors, but retaliation was common and often severe.

There is a double standard related to sexual behavior, appearance, and demeanor among men and women in law enforcement. In addition, the problem exists because men inappropriately refer to women officers as “chicks “or call them a flirty name such as “sweetheart.” In some reports that are anonymously submitted by women officers, says that male superiors or other ranking officers touch them inappropriately at times.

In 1845, New York City officials hired two women to work as wardress in the city’s two jails. This development of women in the role of police remained static until Mary Owens received the rank of a police officer from the Chicago Police Department in 1893 (Criminal Justice Studies, 2013). Unfortunately, sexual harassment will continue until it is addressed. Sexual harassment should never be accepted in the workplace or anywhere.

Sexual Harassment doesn’t just happen in Law Enforcement, it happens in any workplace. The other professions I will be comparing is the medical field, legal realm, and engineering. Recent research from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that the rate of sexual harassment has increased. One reason is that sexual harassment in science-related fields is so common because women often work in isolated environments. Female doctors are frequently harassed by patients and coworkers. 

We often think of patients being harassed by doctors, but female doctors are often victims as well. The difference is that most female doctors do not report because of the fear of public shaming, media backlash, or losing their jobs. In the legal realm profession, according to a research study by Bloomberg, more than a third of female lawyers have been sexually harassed at work. Also, the study showed that 23 percent of women attorneys in that study were working at law firms and working in-house. Another 17 percent reported being inappropriately touched (Bloomberg, 2018).

From this information, you can see that sexual harassment seems to be worse in the legal profession rather than law enforcement. The last profession to compare is engineering. Engineering is another male dominate career, that women try to compete for recognition in the workplace. From speaking with my female friends that are engineering majors, they said that all the professors are males. This aggravates some females that they don’t have a female engineer to relate to this social problem. According to the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), almost half of all engineering female students experience sexual harassment from faculty or staff (Engineers, 2018).

Employer provided sexual harassment training is used often in many workplaces around our country and it is becoming increasingly common in many foreign countries. Psychological and physical impacts have been related to the experience of the arising sex discrimination in the workplace (Stress Medicine). U.S. employers alone spend overestimation of 10 billion dollars annually on Sexual Harassment training. If the training is effective, that money is well spent, and helping to avoid the significant costs to individuals such as stress and other health concerns (Journal of Organizational Behavior, 2018).

Many people can be affected by sexual harassment in law enforcement, but the main people are women and their families. The agencies that these women work for can also be affected because it is happening within the department. There has been a couple of solutions to prevent sexual harassment in law enforcement. In Illinois, there was a law mandating that investigations of complaints of criminal sexual assaults by law enforcement agents should be conducted by employees of a different agency (Sweeney, 2018).

From the research, I concluded that this law worked in some cases but still did not prevent sexual harassment from happening. Other police departments in the United States, do an Internal investigation and implement a discipline system for sexual harassment acquisitions. The last solution is that there is a Law Enforcement Misconduct Statue. This law makes it unlawful for a state or local law enforcement officer to engage in any misconduct that deprives a person of their Constitutional rights (Criminal Justice, 2018).

Sexual Harassment is included in this statue and will be dealt with. There are more reasons why these solutions haven’t worked, and it is because most agencies don’t enforce the Law Enforcement Misconduct Statue, although that is not fully confirmed it seems like not all agencies comply. The main reason is that women are afraid of reporting. Unfortunately, reporting this type of misconduct can have negative repercussions, and it holds women back. In my opinion, it seems that some female officers have reported sexual harassment to their superiors, and it was ignored or not taken seriously.

My Solution

After my research on this topic, I concluded if I oversaw the Department of Justice that deals with sexual harassment in Law enforcement, I would have three requirements for all Law Enforcement agencies. My first requirement would be to create a Sexual Harassment Seminar that was required for all agencies to attend in different locations around our country. This seminar would be at least 2 hours long with demonstrations of right and wrong behavior in the workplace and the statistics of sexual harassment.

My second requirement would be for agencies to take gender discrimination and sexual harassment complaints seriously and assume the proactive role of impact when addressing these complaints. This requirement would be my main focus. My final requirement would be to hire more female officers and administrative staff. This would hopefully eliminate the numbers of reported harassments between male and female officers. I would also hope that having more females in police departments, would help get more female recruitments.

There are three important reasons my solution would work, and it is because it will bring more awareness to this issue in law enforcement, show female officers that we care as an agency, and close the gap of being afraid to report. This issue is very important and should be prevented. Women and men are officers of the law and should be equal and not treated as objects.

Unfortunately, there are some protentional problems to my solution which would be that officers may not care or see a problem of sexual harassment in their agency and just simply not enough time for the seminar requirement. In conclusion, I hope this information has open a concern for the topic and bring awareness to stop sexual harassment.

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Women in Law Enforcement. (2019, Nov 27). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/women-in-law-enforcement/