Women in Law Enforcement Series, Part 2

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The Inferiority Myth

By: Victor E. Kappeler, Ph.D.

Regardless of the fact that women have been employed in American law enforcement since the early 1900s, a historical pattern of bias and discrimination has continued, even in the face of substantial evidence, which shows that not only are women capable of doing police work, but often they out perform men in important aspects of the job.

Despite some differences in how males and females approach police work, there is no scientific evidence that indicates females are inferior to, or less effective than their male counterparts.

Research in Washington, DC and New York City, for example, shows that male and female officers perform their duties similarly (Block and Anderson, 1974; Sichel et al., 1978). Likewise, research conducted in Texas and Oklahoma on the arrest rates of 2,293 female officers found them almost identical to males (David, 1984). The often-repeated concern about female officers inability to handle violent confrontation also appears to be more myth than fact. Research on violent police confrontations finds that female officers used their firearms less frequently than male officers, but had fewer instances of injuring citizens and were no more likely to be injured than men (Grennan, 1988).

More from this series:

Read Part 1: Gender Ideology and Women in Policing

Read Part 3: Women in Policing: A Different Approach

Victor E. Kappeler, Ph.D.
Associate Dean and Foundation Professor
School of Justice Studies
Eastern Kentucky University


Block, P., & Anderson, D. (1974). Policewomen on Patrol. Washington, D.C.: The Police Foundation.

David, J. (1984). Perspectives of Policewomen in Texas and Oklahoma. Journal of Police Science and Administration12: 395–403.

Grennan, S. (1988). Findings on the Role of Officer Gender in Violent Encounters with Citizens.  Journal of Police Science and Administration15(1): 78–85.

Sichel, J., Friedman, L. N., Quint, J. C., & Smith, M. E. (1978). Women on Patrol: A Pilot Study of Police Performance in New York City. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Law Enforcement.

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