Number of women in police forces rising

Women in law enforcement have overcome many challenges in the past to get where they are today. At first, many thought the idea of women in law enforcement was silly and ridiculous, but today there’s a more positive view on the idea of women in law enforcement.

In the 1970s, women only made up two percent of law enforcement. Although the number of women in this field is still really low, today it’s risen to 13 percent.

Andrea Frana, who is assigned to the investigations division as a detective at the Waterloo Police Department, said, “I think women have a positive impact on law enforcement. I believe women, at times, have more of a calming effect and are seen as less threatening, in certain situations. It sets a positive example for many young people to see a women succeed in this profession.”

There are many women in law enforcement who aren’t treated differently than the rest of the men who work alongside them. Brooke Carter, a sergeant on Watch I patrol who also works at the Waterloo Police Department, said, “I have never been intimidated by working with all men or had any major issues. In our department we treat each other as equals regardless of gender. I encountered an obstacle as a sergeant in that not everyone believes women should work in law enforcement and had to prove them wrong in order to continue being a sergeant. Other than that, I didn’t really encounter any obstacles. I worked hard and by doing so was able to get promoted.”

Although many women are treated as equals, there are also many women who aren’t treated as fairly by others. Darcy Canby, a patrol officer for the Waterloo Police Department, said, “Some people don’t think law enforcement is a woman’s place. Some men/people on the street, have a hard time taking orders from a woman and will test you to see if they can push you around. You have to be confident and sure of yourself to make sure they don’t view you as weak and someone they can take advantage of. I think women in law enforcement can show people that women can be strong in the same situations that men are considered strong in. You shouldn’t let stereotypes keep you from something you really want to do.”

There are many reasons women are motivated into law enforcement. Brooke Heuer, a lieutenant for the Cedar Falls Police Department, said, “I did not set out to be an officer. I actually went to UNI for finance and then switched my major part way through to criminology with a Spanish minor. I worked in retail while I was going to college and ended up working in a couple of stores doing loss prevention. I got to know some of the officers because of my work and was curious about the testing process. I ended up testing and was offered a job, but went to work for the Iowa Department of Public Safety Intelligence Bureau as a criminal intelligence analyst instead. Cedar Falls was hiring again, and I ended up coming to work for them. Though I did not set out to be an officer, I enjoy what I do. My parents raised me to see the importance of helping others when you can and volunteering. My job allows me to help others in a variety of different ways. Some other things that I like about law enforcement are that each day is different and I am not stuck behind a desk all day. Of course, we do a lot of paperwork, so I am at a desk part of the day.”

Many of the women who have been treated as equals most likely have encountered an incident where they were treated as inferiors. Investigator Frana said, “I was working a harassment case between two employees at a business in Waterloo. Both employees were of a different culture. The female victim wanted the male suspect to stop and did not want him arrested. I learned before going to the male’s home that his culture did not respect any woman in an authoritative position. I took a co-worker with me to the male’s home, and he did not acknowledge my presence. He would only speak with my male co-worker.”

Working as a police officer can be intimidating for many women, since they would be working in a male dominant field. Even though it may be intimidating, Cedar Valley women in law enforcement encourage women who are interested in a career in law enforcement to go out and give it a try.

Officer Canby said, “It does take a special personality to be a police officer, but if it’s what you want to do, then go for it. Don’t let the fact that it is a male dominant profession keep you from pursuing your dream. Women can be just as effective in this field.”

These everyday women who chose a job in law enforcement aim to set an example for younger women. Sergeant Carter said, “Women in law enforcement are definitely a role model for other women. Since this is a male-dominated field, women and young girls can look up to women in law enforcement, and hopefully realize they can obtain any job they want to even in a male dominated field.  Also, as I said before, women tend to communicate first and act second when appropriate. Many people who call for an officer just want someone to listen to them, and women tend to be better listeners and more patient in that regard.”

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