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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

Not Afraid to Be a Woman

How I maintain my femininity while still garnering respect.

February 14, 2014  |  by Christin Rudell

I was asked to talk about maintaining my femininity while still garnering respect as a police officer. At first, I thought it was somewhat of a laughable topic. To be accepted and respected among other officers who are mostly male, we as female officers often have to leave our femininity behind.

We have to be able to get our hands dirty and jump into situations with resistive subjects to show that we aren't a liability. We have to be able to roll with the punches amid dirty jokes, flatulence, and other behaviors typically displayed in a male-dominated field. Being feminine is often seen as a hindrance as opposed to an attribute when garnering respect from male coworkers because they feel like they have to protect us instead of focus on the problem they are called to handle.

I know when I first started on my own at my first assignment that it took longer for me to be accepted than my male classmate who came with me. I could see that my coworkers were wondering if I could handle a fight, or a subject who was cussing me out calling me every name in the book, and if I could keep it together when I had a homicide.

It took me showing that I wasn't overly sensitive and that I could be tough in tough situations to get the respect that my classmate achieved simply by walking through the door on that first night of work. I think a large part of the problem here is what we, speaking for myself as well as my male counterparts, think of as feminine.

I will admit, when I think of femininity my first thoughts are of a woman's physical appearance versus a man's. They are stereotypical attributes such as a curvy body, long hair, makeup, jewelry, nail polish, dresses, and un-sensible shoes, to name a few. With a police uniform on we are set to a standard to all look somewhat alike, hence the uniform. It is a model of androgyny.

Nail polish must be natural in color, you can only wear one pair of earrings and they must be studs, and the only ring you can wear is a wedding band. The rest of your uniform consists of black boots for footwear, long pants that are usually black or navy blue and are fit for function, and a vest that flattens out any indication of a female form along with the duty belt that removes the idea that hips once existed there. If you have long hair it must be up in a ponytail or bun so that it does not fall below the collar and if it is short there is a limitation on width and style so that it is subdued and not considered "trendy."

The paramilitary mindset keeps all officers looking the same in order to make police easily identifiable to the public and looking like part of the same team, while keeping the appearance at a professional standard.

So where does being female come into play in this business? I had to rethink my idea of femininity on a deeper level that removes the physical attributes of a woman and leans toward the inherent differences of males and females in how we think and act. Of course there will be some generalization here as everyone is different but there are definitely certain behaviors that are considered more "male" or "female." I think this is where female officers can maintain their femininity while garnering the respect that their male counterparts often get just by showing up.

Attributes that are considered to be more feminine are sensitivity to others' emotions, and interpersonal skills that lead to an increased ability to communicate with others effectively. Men are generally known to be more physical and gruff as a form of communication, while females are more known to talk out their problems, leaving the physical altercations as a last resort. In part this may be due to the fact that women have to use words over physical force, as most of us don't carry the physical stature that men do giving them a more tactical advantage for fighting. But I also think that women more naturally turn to talking out a problem before jumping to physical action. This is where women shine in police work.

I can think of several runs where we have the inevitable "good cop," "bad cop" routine. The typical scenario is my male counterpart showing up to get the information he needs for the arrest or report while leaving much of the finesse behind. This can often lead to complaints or physical altercations when the person he is dealing with feels as though he or she is not being heard and becomes increasingly more agitated. Don't get me wrong, I get impatient and short with people, and have to be physical in handling people at times. But even after all is said and done, if I can talk the person down and explain what is happening to them while listening to their concerns, things seem to run more smoothly.

I don't want it to sound as if men are incompetent at communicating because that is far from the case. But I think our society as a whole looks to women for compassion and a listening ear and men for the physical protection role. I think it is extremely important to be able to handle resistors and fight when need be to keep us all safe out here. But I think that maintaining that role of being great communicators garners respect while maintaining our femininity.

Christin Rudell is an officer with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. She was recognized as the April 2012 NLEOMF Officer of the Month.

Comments (8)

Displaying 1 - 8 of 8

Ima Leprechaun @ 2/17/2014 7:32 PM

I was in Law Enforcement back in the day. Women were just starting into the field so they had a lot to over come both within the field and from the public. The first female Officer (I will call her Mary, not her real name) I worked with had a short stature which initially lead to some suspects "trying" her. As they found out she was tough for her size. I was pleased to work with "Mary" from the start and I found her better at her job than many of her male contemporaries. Men or women can be properly trained to be good Police Officers as long as they are given equal chances to succeed. I remember one night after work several of us were standing in the parking lot talking after work. One of the male officers undid his belt pulled his pants down and tucked in his shirt, it was nothing sexual he was just tucking in his shirt the same way he had done every night after work. After the rest left, "Mary" said to me "Well, I guess I'm one of the guys now". She and I had looked at each other when the other guy dropped his pants and we said nothing to anyone at the time but we both smirked at what had just happened. The guys were so comfortable with her as just another officer and she realized she was just another one of the team. It was not something the officer did deliberately and he did not even realize he had done it until we talked later and he was so embarrassed and apologetic to "Mary" but she understood. That was for her the moment she knew she was just one of the "guys". I worked with her my entire career and she was a fantastic friend and Officer.

Rollo Thomassi @ 2/18/2014 1:28 PM

As a 33 year law enforcement veteran, who just happens to be female, I must also say that "a wee bit" of make-up, a manicure, and a fashionable haircut/style are appropriate as well. While the uniform shirt, t-shirt, trousers, vest, boots and Sam Browne don't do a thing for the female form and are neither designed nor expected to, that doesn't and shouldn't mean that women officers must automatically appear andrognous and "masculine", unless that's their choice. And, although it often is, being accepted by one's collegues shouldn't mean having to tolerate bad manners. I have always preferred to judge and be judged by the content and quality of my work...and nothing more.

Ima Leprechaun @ 2/19/2014 3:58 PM

There is always someone that will misinterpret something innocent for "bad manners" but those people tend to be looking for "bad manners" to begin with and they are usually trolling for a lawsuit. Not everyone is out to make women masculine and not everything happens on purpose but some people do read their own prejudice into a story.

MarshalMN @ 3/14/2014 5:54 PM

We had only one female recruit at the academy back in my day and she finished better than 98% of the class of 50. But how can a woman end up as chief of a large metro PD and be caught in this hypocrisy is beyond reason.
Go to:

Don Paul Pastor @ 10/23/2014 2:26 AM

I have worked with female officers, and watched others, either in person, or on video, and it has always amazed me that nearly all of them react in the same manner during, or leading up to a physical confrontation. During a physical confrontation with a fighter, the go into the fray tentatively and seem to be unable to respond with physical force substantial enough to assist their male partner. It is a proven fact that females do not have the warrior instinct inbred into males. Females undoubtedly are more compassionate, which can be an worthy attribute in some instances, but when the major physical confrontations occur - watch your back!

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Marisa Perhaes Gorman @ 4/9/2015 6:10 AM

Very interesting discussion. I thought my memoir detailing the story of my career of almost 20 years on patrol in the New York City Police Department, might be of interest to fellow Female LEOs of this site. I battled the leaders of the department in an epic lawsuit for women's equal rights while continuing to patrol the streets of northern Manhattan during the crack epidemic of the 1980's and 90's. Balancing being a female in a "man's world" and being a working mom.

Stay Safe and Strong Ladies!

Anathea C. Griego @ 9/11/2015 12:58 AM

I have an 18 yr old daughter that wants to work for the K9 unit she is passionate, smart, patient with animals, level headed in a crisis, she wants to work, college is not her thing for now. I think that is ok we aren't all built to learn the same. She would be an asset for any department . K-9 units are generally run by men. I would like some advice in guiding her in the right plan of action as far as job app, classes, training, and etc. thanks for the advice.

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