women in federal law enforcement

Why We Need More Women in Law Enforcement

Earlier this year, I was invited to a meeting of the Whitehouse Council on Women and Girls and the Task Force on 21st Century Policing report. As far as I could tell, I was the only representative from a law enforcement group in attendance.

That is not what made me uncomfortable, however. What made me uncomfortable was dealing with a room full of women all representing women throughout the United States.

You would think I was in my element, but I was not. For the last 40 years, I have been the only or one of a few women in a room full of men. I had to learn early on how to communicate with men in law enforcement–there is a flow to the conversation that is all men. You learn where and when to break in to make a point, or take control, or to state your point so it is not lost.

This all-female meeting required me to listen intently, and I learned a lot. I learned what was missing from the task force report. Nothing really addressed the level of disrespect women feel when they deal with the police as a victim or as a citizen. Women are half the population and a disproportionate percentage of victims in certain crimes and there was really no focus on that. These women’s organizations were angry and frustrated. Moreover, disappointed that nothing in the report addressed how women are treated, and in particular, how women of color are treated by law enforcement.

This really got me thinking about the need for more women in law enforcement. I know, I lead a women’s organization, I am supposed to say that. However, as a profession, our decision-making has become stilted by a lack of insight and a lack of perspective. Law enforcement can no longer afford to make decisions based on exclusion of any group. Decisions made in an atmosphere of exclusion are decisions based on inferior information.

I am not talking about increasing diversity because it meets some arbitrary percentage, or it appeases a group complaint, or it meets a performance metric. I am talking about embracing diversity–in particular, diversity that includes women and women of color–because it leads to better decisions, period. Greater diversity brings greater understanding of the communities we swore to protect. Diversity helps ensure we do not fall into a pattern of groupthink or develop an “us versus them” attitude.

Moreover, diversity must exist at all levels of an agency. Internally, we have all seen what happens when agency leaders make decisions based on incomplete and or inaccurate information. It creates bad policy, which results in lawsuits, votes of no confidence, low morale, and high attrition rates.  Having a diverse leadership group is a little like having access to the Internet. You have so much information at hand that you have the ability to disregard some information, but have enough to make a solid, supportable decision.

Creating greater diversity and becoming more inclusive is not lowering the hiring standards. It is finding and hiring the best people for the job who have a variety of knowledge, life experience, and perspective.

Women in Federal Law Enforcement Inc. (www.wifle.org) is a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization chartered in June 1999 as an outgrowth of an interagency committee sponsored by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Treasury. The WIFLE Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, was incorporated in March 2006. Both organizations work to promote the value that women bring to the law enforcement profession and address the reasons why women remain underrepresented in sworn law enforcement positions.

The WIFLE organizations advocate the recruitment, retention and promotion of women in federal law enforcement occupations as a means to enhance the efficacy of law enforcement operations.

Posted in Hear it from WIFLE



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