During the probationary period, an officer can be dismissed without cause.
After the probationary period is completed, dismissal must be based on cause under
rules established by the local civil service regulations and/or police union contract.
An average of about 7 percent of all recruits are rejected during their probationary period. 85 Susan Martin found significant differences in how departments
used the probationary period, however. In Phoenix, 47 percent of all officers who left
the department were on probation at the time. This included 26 percent qf all female
recruits and 14 percent of all males. In Washington, DC, however, only 15 percent of
those leaving the department were in the probationary phase (representing 5 percent
ofboth males and females). 86
Many experts argue that a longer probationary period permits more time for
observing performance and an opportunity to dismiss those whose performance is
unsatisfactory. In Philadelphia, the six-month probationary period includes 19 weeks
of academy training, leaving only a seven-week period of on-the-street experience. A
report found this "insufficient to allow supervisors to
whether a particular
candidate is qualified to be a police officer" and recommended at least a six-month
probationary period following completion of academy training. 87
Police Officers I: Entering Police Work
Step Up to Law Enforcement: ASuccessful Strategy for
Recruiting Women into the Law Enforcement Profession
Many police agencies have begun to target women and/or minorities specifically in
their recruitment efforts. In spite of these heightened recruitment efforts, the wide
range of job openings, and competitive compensation packages, the number of
women entering protective services-and policing in particular-has not increased
substantially over the past two decades.
According to Equality Denied· The Status ofWomen in Policing, 2001, a report by
the National Center for Women and Policing, women accounted for on)y 12.7 percent of all sworn law enforcement positions in large agencies (those with 100 or more
sworn personnel) in 2001-a figure that is less than four percentage points higher
than in 1990, when women comprised 9 percent of all sworn officers. In small and
rural agencies (those with fewer than 100 sworn personnel), women comprise an
even smaller number-8.1 percent-of all sworn personnel. When those figures are
combined in a weighted estimate, they indicate that women represent only 11.2 percent of all sworn law enforcement personnel in the United States-dramatically less
than the participation of women in the whole labor force, estimated at 46.5 percent. 1
When more attention was first given to recruiting women, in the 1970s and
1980s (when popular television shows like Cagney & Lacey and Hill Street Blues portrayed women holding their own with male counterparts), there was a slight upsurge
in female officers. Unfortunately, that increase has not been maintained.Jon Felperin,
director of the Center for Law Enforcement Training, based in Northridge, California,
notes that there is mounting evidence that the slow pace ofincrease in the representation of women in large police agencies has stalled or possibly reversed. In 2004, women
still accounted for only 12. 7 percent of law enforcement positions in large agencies,
and now that number seems to be declining. 2
Officers and Organizations
One possible explanation for this stall, or even decline, in women's representation in sworn law enforcement ranks is the decrease in the number of consent decrees
mandating the hiring of women and/or minorities. Among surveyed agencies noted
in a 2003 report, eight consent decrees expired in the period from 1999 to 2002, yet
only two consent decrees were implemented since 1995, and only six were implemented in the entire decade. 3 Among municipal police departments, those with a
consent decree had 77 percent more sworn women than those departments without
a consent decree and 25 percent more than the national average for municipal police
In Vermont, several agencies came together in 2004 to improve the representation of women in the profession and saw immediate success. This article describes the
reasons for and the implementation of this successful recruitment program.
Why should police departments specifically target women to fill these positions?
Two compelling reasons are education and demographics. Women in the United
States and Europe now account for 54 percent of college graduates. Additionally,
U.S. women outpace their male counterparts in obtaining degrees (holding 58 percent
of bachelor's degrees and 59 percent of graduate degrees). 5 There is well-documented
research that has shown a positive correlation between higher-educated people and
their level of success in law enforcement positions that use such areas as critical
thinking, problem solving, and better-developed interpersonal and communication
skills. 6 Because women make up 51 percent of the population, they constitute an
untapped resource from which to recruit.
Further persuasive evidence can be found in a guidebook developed by the
National Center for Women and Policing titled Recruiting and Retaining Women: A
Self-Assessment Guide for Law Enforcement. 7 This guide offers seven well-researched
and documented advantages to hiring and retaining female law enforcement officers.
According to the report, the evidence is as follows:
• Female officers have prnved to be as competent as their male counterparts.
Research from departments in nine cities across the country indicates that
women officers were equally as qualified as their male counterparts for
• Female officers are less likely to use excessive force. In a study conducted by
the Los Angeles police department, women were significantly less likely to be
involved in employing either deadly or excessive force, resulting in fewer
lawsuit.s and less negative publicity for their departments. Also noted was the
fact that physical strength has not been shown to predict either general police
effectiveness or the ability to handle dangerous situations successfully.
• BCemale officers can hbellp implement cdommunity-orientehd policing.
ommunication, pro em so1ving, an cooperation wit community
members-hallmarks of community-style policing-are areas in which
women officers receive better evaluations than their male counterparts.
• Employing more female officers will improve the law enforcement response
to violence against women. Relationship violence calls are the single largest
category of calls made to police across the country. Because most of the
Police Officers I: Entering Police Work
victims are women and most of the batterers are men, it is important to have
. female officers on the force to be effective in responding to these calls.
• Female officers often have the ability to de-escalate. potentially violent or
aggressive situations through their presence and
of interpersonal skills,
reducing the need to resort to physical confrontation.
• Increasing the presence of female officers reduces problems of sexual
harassment and discrimination within an agency. Sexual harassment is more
prevalent in male-dominated workplaces. Hiring and retaining more women
reduces the numeric underrepresentation of female officers and, as a result,
enhances the organizational climate.
The presence of women can bring about beneficial changes in policy for .all
officers. Management has an incentive to examine selection and training
standards, measures of police performance, family-friendly policies that
support both parents at the time of a birth or an adoption, uniform and
equipment design, and supervision of all officers. A gender-diverse workplace
makes a better workplace for all sworn personnel.
The New York State Police (NYSP) recently conducted a survey ofyoung women to
determine what would attract them to a law enforcement career. For women between
the ages of 19 and 29, the NYSP found a demand for financial inducements and job
security, a supportive work climate, skill and task variety, and family-friendly work
policies. 8 Policing can be a career that offers all of these things, and any department,
with some minor system changes, can easily become the "department of choice" to attract and retain the best applicants. The chief advantage ofincorporating these changes
into the organizational system is that all members, regardless of gender, would benefit..
During extensive interviews with female law enforcement officers, staff at
Vermont Works for Women (VWW; WWW-.nnetw.org), an organization whose mission
is to "help women and girls explore, pursue, and excel in
careers that ·
pay a livable wage," got to know women who loved their jobs. All stated that they
liked the public service aspect of their jobs the most and that they enjoyed working
to solve problems in their communities. They also spoke of the high degree of independence they enjoyed on a daily basis, of never getting bored, and of using many
"tools" such as communication and problem solving to de-escalate potentially dangerous situations before they got out of control. Clearly, there is a need and a place
for women in the law enforcement profession.
Establishment of the Program
Most police departments, however, struggle to attract and retain significant numbers
of female law enforcement officers. This may have led Chief Gary Margolis of the
University of Vermont Police Services to call VWW in 2003. For several weeks,
Chief Margolis had driven past one of VWW's training sites on his way to and from
work. The site, a home renovation project, was an on-the-job training program with
an all-female crew. "I've been watching your crew," he said, "and I've been wondering
if you could train women for careers in law enforcement in the same way that you
train women for careers in construction."
Ten months later, with the support of nine law enforcement agencies, the
Vermont Department of Corrections, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Vermont
Officers and Organizations
Department of Labor, VWW launched Step Up to Law Enforcement, a nine-week
preacademy training and introduction to real policing and corrections for women
interested in pursuing careers in the law enforcement field. The program, which has
now run for four years in northwest Vermont, has proved to be a particularly effective
vehicle for attracting women to law enforcement careers in Chittenden County,
Vermont. Since the program's inception in 2004, there has been not only a significant
increase in women applicants, but also more women officers hired. This indicates that
the program is reaching those qualified women who previously had not seen policing
as a career option.
As a community-based organization, VWW is uniquely positioned to bridge
the gap between women in the community and area police departments. The organization has a 22-year track record of recruiting and preparing women for employment
in nontraditional occupations. In consultation with its law enforcement colleagues, it
has designed a program that prepares women not only for the physical challenges of
the police academy and the law enforcement field but also for various stages of the
officer selection process where female candidates have historically not performed
well. This partnership represents an opportunity for collaboration that is truly a winwin for community members and employers alike.
Step Up to Law Enforcement begins with meeting women where they are in their
lives: in their varying degrees of physical fitness; expressing different levels of selfesteem; with their different barriers of financial, family, and emotional stresses; and at
different stages of certainty about where or how they want to serve. The program asks
participants to come with a strong desire to serve their communities and the readiness to work hard every day toward fitness and academic goals that will make their
future careers possible.
The program has three key components: physical conditioning geared to the
physical exam administered by the police academy and taught by licensed trainers at
a local gym; women's resources, or the soft skills of career planning and the law enforcement profession, a module taught by the program coordinator and contracted
instructors; and training in classroom and technical topics specific to the profession,
taught by policing and corrections partners.
There are several other important elements of the Step Up program:
Preparation for the physical test(s) that must be passed by all police and/or
corrections academy candidates in the state or jurisdiction.
Preparation for the written exam(s) required for entry to the police and/or
Awareness of and preparation for the application process, which may include
oral board interviews, a psychological profile, a polygraph test, a background
investigation, and report writing.
An introduction to relevant issues in criminal justice.
Presentations, interactive workshops, and panel discussions with law
enforcement officers on a wide range of policing and corrections
Hands-on technical training in firearms and physical response techniques.
Police Officers I: Entering Police Work
• A personal development module that focuses on building self-esteem,
developing skills in effective communication, goal setting, and problem solving:
• Employment planning and job-seeking skills, including cover letter and
resume development, interview preparedness, networking, and public speaking.
• Professional mentoring and other forms of postprogram support.
While in the program, participants are exposed to anywhere from 40 to 60 law
enforcement professionals, most of whom are women, who teach a variety of topics.
Participants are certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid and
are given instruction in basic self-defense. The program includes guided tours of regional correctional facilities as well as the Vermont Police Academy in Pittsford. All
participants take the police academy's written aptitude test, and passing scores are
kept on permanent file.
Benefits to Program Participation
The camaraderie and the support that students experience within the program also
help to boost their sense of self-confidence tremendously, making the job application
process easier and the women more successful. One recent graduate remarked,
"When I started this program, I couldn't do one pushup without fears of falling face
first into the carpet, and I hated running.... But here I am now doing 20 push-ups
and running a mile and a half with ease. I have so much confidence and self-esteem
that I feel like I'm unstoppable, and I look in the mirror and can't help but smile. I'm
almost halfway there on the road to my goal, and I see nothing but green lights."
Another student, Erica, came to the program after a career assessment suggested
that policing, a career she had never considered before that point, held great potential for
her. 'Through the nine weeks of the course, Erica's confidence and self-awareness grew to
the point that she was sure that policing was the right career for her. Upon completion
of the program, she applied to, and was hired by, one of the most competitive police
departments in the state. In May 2008, Erica graduated from the Vermont Police Academy. She is now serving as a police officer with the Burlington Police Department.
Another benefit of the program is exposing women to the realities of the profession so that they understand what police work genuinely entails. This opportunity
decreases the effect of myths created by the entertainment industry that tend to create false expectations. This prehire experience can have an impact on retention and
ultimately saves police departments and the Vermont Department of Corrections
money. Recruits are more likely to stick with the career after learning more specifically what the job involves. As one participant put it, "When I was little, I always
thought I wanted to [be a police officer]. But now, since I've had the experience and
I've been able to shadow and speak to some of the officers, now I know this is truly
what I really want to do."
In the four years of the program, 20 of the 34 graduates have been hired by either
police departments or state correctional facilities. Several from the most recent class
are either still in the preparatory phases of applying (working on their physical or
written exam eligibility, for instance) or in the midst of their application processes.
Their stories shed light on the kinds of barriers that likely prevent other women like
them from ever getting to the door of the recruitment office.
Officers and Organizations
A 2006 graduate, a 36-year-old single mother of two, comm'uted more than
70 minutes each way to attend the program four days a week while juggling child
care and another job. Although she once served in the military police, years had
separated her from the physical and mental demands of the job, and she felt she .
needed the team support and professional exposure of the program to reenter the
field with confidence. She graduated from the Step Up to Law Enforcement program, was hired by a state correctional facility, and has found success not only as an
officer but as a certified department of corrections academy trainer.
Perhaps the words· of a 2005 graduate, Officer Mandy Wooster of the University of Vermont Police Services, describe the power of the program best: "Through
this program I have become more confident in my abilities than ever before. Without
this program I may have never pursued this career path. The program pushed me to
reach my goals. The support that I have received, and continue to receive from VWW,
has been phenomenal."
The Step Up to Law Enforcement program is a recruitment strategy, a skill-building
resource, and an intensive experiential opportunity, as well as a gender-specific jobtraining program. Step Up to Law Enforcement is helping to fill gaps and diversify
the forces of protective services in Vermont.
Sources: Lianne M. Tuomey, Chiet University of Vermont Police Services, Burlington, Vermont, and Lieutenant !Retired), Burlington,
Vermont. Police Deportment; Rochel Jolly, Womens Program Coordinator, Vermont Works for Women. Winsookl Vermont; "Step Up to
Law Enforcement: ASuccessful Strategy for Recruiting Women into the Law Enforcement Profession" Police Chief LXXVI. no. 6
(June 2009), www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&article_id=1820&issue_id=62009,
accessed January 5, 2011.
The profile of the American police officer has
changed significantly over the past twenty-five
years. There are now more racial-minority, female,
and college-educated officers than ever before.
Many old personnel practices have been eliminated
because they discriminated against particular
groups. Meanwhile, the training of officers has improved substantially during the same period. In
short, the police recruit of today is a very different
kind of person from the recruit of 25 years ago.
career perspective, 124
stereotypes about cops, 124
civil service system, 125
minimum age level, 126
residency requirements, 129
job security, 130
oral interviews, 131
background investigations, 132
Title VII of the 1964 Civil
Rights Act, 134
bona fide occupational
qualifications (BFOQ§), 134
equal employment opportunity
(EEO) index, 135
affirmative action, 1 ...
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