Critical Issues Facing Women & Minority Police Officers

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  • 00:00 Issues Facing Women &…
  • 00:26 Discrimination
  • 2:00 Underrepresentation
  • 3:13 Social Stigma
  • 4:24 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

Within the white male-dominated world of policing, female and minority officers face many roadblocks and obstacles such as discrimination, underrepresentation, and even social stigma. This lesson takes a look at some of these critical issues.

Issues Facing Women & Minorities

On paper, law enforcement is a rainbow of equal opportunity. Police departments across the nation are supposed to hire without regard to gender or race. However, real statistics aren't following suit. Many believe this is due to some serious issues, even obstacles, placed in the way of female and minority officers. We're going to take a look at some of these issues.


When it comes to issues facing female officers, discrimination by male officers is at the top of the list. Despite all the rhetoric of equality, it's reported that many male officers still doubt women can perform equally and they still expect women officers to fail. Since the world of policing is definitely a team sport, in which partners and colleagues must lean on one another, discrimination by male officers is a critical issue facing female police officers.

Sadly, this isn't just an American problem. Studies show that policewomen in Europe, Eastern Europe, and Latin America also struggle to be seen as equals amidst an organization that still identifies as a band of brothers. Case and point: we've all heard the term, 'fraternal order of police' being used to describe our nation's police force. With the word 'fraternal' actually meaning, 'like brothers', it's not too hard to see why a police woman just might feel like the odd man out. It may also help to explain why places like Las Vegas only see women making up about 10% of the police force.

Minorities also face discrimination. For example, New York City's police department has been accused of prejudicial practices that include an antagonistic work environment against people of color, unmerited disciplinary actions taken against minorities, and even disproportionately harsh disciplinary penalties levied on those who do not fit into the category of Caucasian.


A second critical issue facing minority and women police officers is underrepresentation. For instance, the New York Times reported in 2015 that in North Charleston, South Carolina, 80% of police officers are white, while over 50% of residents are minorities. In Ferguson, Missouri, over 83% of officers are white, while over 70% of residents are minorities. In Garfield Heights, Ohio, 90% of its officers are white, even though over 70% of its residents are minorities. With these obvious imbalances in representation, it's not hard to see why young minorities aren't flocking to police recruitment centers.

Of course, the same could be said for women. A 2007 study revealed they too suffer from underrepresentation. In the city of Houston, women made up only 13% of the police force, and in the city of Boston, only 14%. Giving more evidence to the female side of the teeter-totter being light, the cities of Baltimore, San Francisco, New York, Memphis, and Los Angeles all came in at under 20%.

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