Recruiting Female Law Enforcement Officers

Agencies should increase Internet recruitment, attend job fairs and host female recruiting events to increase the number of women in the ranks.

I’m not a proponent of hiring females for the sake of hiring females. For that matter, I’m not a fan of hiring males, if they’re not suited for the job, just to fill an open slot. Whoever is hired, man or woman, needs to be qualified. That being said, are we missing the boat on qualified female candidates? If so, what can we do to recruit them?

Most departments want to increase the number of female officers in their ranks, but the applicant pool usually lacks qualified candidates. This isn’t surprising, since police work remains a male-dominated profession. Even now, many women don’t think being an officer is an achievable career path.

Many agencies shy away from targeting specific groups due to fear of liability. However, there is a clear difference between target recruiting and target hiring. Surely, an agency can’t promote they’re hiring from within one specific group. However, there’s nothing wrong with engaging in a specific campaign to encourage qualified females to apply.   

So how do we recruit qualified women?

First, the Internet can no longer be overlooked as a tool. Not only can job search engines be used to post an open hiring process, but they can also be useful in recruitment. Most departments in today’s era have Web sites. With today’s generations being so computer savvy, the Web is a necessity for every department.

An agency should utilize their Web site by creating a recruiting link. This area of the Website would provide answers to the most commonly asked questions and links to print applications and other necessary paperwork to apply.

An ideal illustration of Web recruitment is the U.S. Capital Police Web site.  Another suggestion is to create a sub-page within the recruitment area dedicated to “women in policing.” This would provide images and duties of females currently working for the department, demonstrating to potential female candidates that it’s possible to be a successful officer. An excellent example is the Norfolk (Va.) PD’s Web site.

Secondly, your agency can conduct job fairs, which can be targeted towards colleges, women’s groups or other organizations where women can be located. (Article continues below).

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Seeking out colleges with educational programs focusing on law enforcement would improve the selection of qualified candidates.  However, a criminal justice degree isn’t always necessary – many departments look for educated candidates in numerous fields of study. It would also be beneficial to host job fairs at high schools, which provides girls interested in law enforcement the ability to focus early and prepare themselves. This creates a qualified job pool for the future.

Finally, your agency can get involved in direct recruiting by hosting a women’s recruitment event. This is an opportunity to have potential female candidates learn about the hiring process, the demands of the police academy and the job, and what opportunities and benefits the agency can provide.

The agency should utilize sworn female officers to conduct the events.  This provides an opportunity for potential recruits to get answers to their questions or concerns they may have about getting involved in police work. It also sends a clear message that women can be successful police officers – that it can be an option for them.

In conjunction with Web pages, job fairs or recruitment nights, any brochures or posters your department uses must include female officers engaged in police activities.

When departments reach out to qualified females, it sends a clear message that they’re welcomed and valued. The agencies are able to dramatically increase the number of females who are hired, sent to the academy, and eventually join the force.

Sgt. Lynne D. Doucette is a patrol supervisor and defensive tactics trainer with the Brunswick (Maine) PD. Prior to being the first female promoted at BPD, she worked as an undercover detective assigned to the state narcotics task force.

This article originally ran in POLICE magazine.


Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

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