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Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

Lynne Doucette

Lynne Doucette

Lt. 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.

Patricia Teinert

Patricia Teinert

Patricia A. Teinert has been a Texas peace officer since 1984. She has served as a patrol officer, investigator, and member of a juvenile gang and narcotics task force. She is currently a patrol officer with Katy ISD Police Department.
Women in Law Enforcement

Competency Trumps Gender

Police officers learn very quickly which partners they want at their side in the trenches, and gender is not a factor.

March 14, 2012  |  by Kristen Ziman

When I'm asked to give talks about policing, the topic most requested is female policing. As the first female promoted to the rank of commander in my organization, there is a genuine interest in my perspective as a female in our male-dominated profession. I've become accustomed to the request, so I acquiesce but then speak about something entirely different in defiance.

The defiance is not for its own sake. Rather, it is because I have spent my 20-year career trying to deflect the fact that I'm a female (not hide, just deflect). During my cadet years and in the academy, my goal was to perform at the same level as my male colleagues. That mindset followed me through my field training program and as a patrol officer on the street.

Police officers learn very quickly which officers they want at their flank when they are in the trenches, and that knowledge is not gained by knowing an officer's gender, affiliation, orientation, or [insert anything that makes us different here]. Instead, it is gained through a series of shared experiences where trust is slowly built as competencies are revealed.

As I made my ascension through the ranks in my department, I started to realize that each supervisory position took me back to the same mindset. I had earned the respect of my peers at the beginning of my career but now I would have to earn it as a sergeant, lieutenant, and so on. Being competent on the street and being competent as a manager require entirely different skill sets, and at each juncture, there is a moment where everyone is watching to see if you have what it takes.

Once again, this phenomenon is gender neutral and we impose the same expectations on any person who has assumed a supervisory role. I will concede that I may have been scrutinized a bit more closely as a result of my gender, but I never minded that. Most of us who are in this profession are called to it because it appeals to our love of a challenge. In fact, people are only worthy of being called to a higher position if they sincerely understand that they must earn it even after they are called to lead.

It wasn't until I became the first female to reach the rank of lieutenant and subsequently commander in my organization that gender became the focus. The media and the public were trying to shine a light on what I had spent so many years successfully deflecting and it was making me extremely uncomfortable. This didn't change until a young female officer told me that she never considered pursuing rank in our organization until she saw it exemplified.

Since her comment, I've embraced the responsibility that comes along with being the first only because it provides possibility to those who might not have considered such. Despite the emphasis on hope and faith, sometimes you can only believe in the things you see.

My goal is that we come to a place in time where there is no headline that spotlights the first of any person in the human race. Only when it ceases to become news will it mean that we have successfully embraced all people as potential leaders and we will focus less on differences and more on character and competence.

Commander Kristen Ziman of the Aurora (Ill.) Police Department is a board member of the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE).

Comments (12)

Displaying 1 - 12 of 12

Dawn @ 3/15/2012 5:54 PM

Well said! Thank you!

gretchen @ 3/15/2012 6:17 PM

thank you! please keep mentoring those young female officers and continue being a role model which I know you are!

Ellen @ 3/15/2012 6:22 PM

As a 36 year police officer and 20 year police chief I feel like you read my thoughts, great article and more importantly, great approach to your career. This is why you are successful.

Kelly @ 3/15/2012 6:39 PM

People tend to judge others from the outside in when what matters, first and foremost, comes from the inside out. Character, integrity and competence know no gender, race, ethnicity, etc. Thanks to you, and others, for being shining examples and mentors for so many.

China Spring @ 3/15/2012 7:20 PM

In many cases I am in agreement. But during my Navy career, females were given more time to run, less push-ups to do and less sit-ups. On TV reality cop shows, who is usually the cop on top of the pile? Which LEO's get jumped and defeated at the scene? It is profiling by gender as we profile by race for terrorists. Personally, for the most part, I do not like men being men and women wanting to be men. Don't put me in a dress and tell me I am pretty.

Patrick @ 3/16/2012 5:12 AM

Very well said. Let's hear a cheer for an aristocracy of TALENT.

Pam Bellm @ 3/16/2012 7:26 AM

Great article that will help all of us remember that it is the fiber of our character that matters. You leadership is inspiring to all - no wonder you are a Rotarian. Pam

Capt David-retired LA Cou @ 3/16/2012 8:24 AM

Kristen, good expression of your feelings but let's face it, the gorillas that run police departments will always, always, see women as inferior physically, a product of the DOJ requiring departments to hire you in many cases, and a lowering of standards so you could be employed. Until there is a department that is all women, things won't change. Right or wrong.

Dana Kirkpatrick -Ret. Oa @ 3/16/2012 10:46 AM

Cheers. You inspired me to speak up. Prior to becoming a police officer I was in the military. I did well and rose through the ranks quickly. The military was my first experience of competing with men on their field. I was athletic and smart. The military recognized my skills as a soldier not my gender. I was thrilled.

I became a police officer while females were only around 4% of the force. There were no mentors and like you any female whom moved beyond beat cop was a first. Each was judged and often there were overt suggestions of standards compromised; rarely were any considered other than the "B" team. However, many toughed it out and prevailed in their areas.

I advanced through the ranks and did my best to transition thinking one guy at a time. I think it would be fair to state that any male whom worked with me elbow to elbow respected my skills and heart. The younger men were the easier sell because after 1973 most had experienced women in sports and competition in their High Schools.

The old dinosaurs were the pack. They also had rank and power of "rumor". I fought the battles with these men. One on one most were fair. However going to a staff meeting with 25 to 1 was always a lop-sided event. I learned to speak my mind, come well prepared, and to never whine. I never presented a problem without a counter solution thought out. Honestly, I believe tenacity, a thick-skin, and diplomacy won out. I cannot deny there was never pain. Growth hurt.

Now after reflecting on my time in the department, I believe the female pioneers did make advances for the junior women. As the rank and file clears the older generations the younger officers will incorporate female officers as part of the norm. I believe that what we have seen in the military will reflect in all fields of employment. Women are now an active part of defense of our nation. We don't sit in chairs we are part of the engagement. All because many women toughed it out

Penny @ 3/17/2012 3:07 PM

I just wanted to thank China Spring for providing such a clear example of what I have had to overcome in 31 years of policing and the point of this article. Neanderthal thinking that we are actually trying to be men. In reality, we wish nothing of the sort. We are trying to be women who do policing. Men think in order to do that, we need to be like them. Luckily, we show them we can soar beyond that mark. Thanks Kristin, you said it all.

Ima Leprechaun @ 3/20/2012 9:50 PM

I was around when women were not readily accepted in Law Enforcement. I know they had it rought but every female officer I ever worked with was professional and as qualified as I was to be there. I never had a problem with any woman in Law Enforcement. It just never occurred to me to even consider them as different from anybody else I worked with. But I saw the resistance by others and that was their problem. A female Officer I wokred with said she finally knew she was accepted when one night after our shift a bunch of us were talking in the parking lot and one of the guys undid his pants and dropped them down a little so he could tuck in his shirt. He never realized what he did and she said that was the defining moment for her that she was just another officer.

Anna @ 8/30/2012 4:59 PM


Congratulations and as a female officer in the Denver Metro Area I would like to say there are not many females who have made rank in our state to see it exemplied is definetly motivation. There needs to be more female role models in L.E. Especially ones that are willing to mentor and be a role model for those females who are just entering the L.E. world.

I can sadly say, I have not had the opportunity to meet a female role model in L.E. that I have desired to follow in her footsteps. Maybe through forums such as these I can be exposed to those females who are out there that I have just not had the chance to meet as of yet.


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