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The New Guard

An influx of young female officers could help change law enforcement for the better.

March 31, 2014  |  by - Also by this author

Capt. Rhonda Lawson, president of the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE), became the first female field captain in the Texas Highway Patrol's history. In her experience, many officers resent competition with minorities for desired positions.

"Some people see females and minorities as threats because they believe they have unfair advantages when it comes to the promotional process," she says.

But that's not true, says Maj. Dwayne Orrick, who heads up the Training and Support Services Division at the Gwinnett County (Ga.) Sheriff’s Office. And perpetuating this "us vs. them" attitude pushes women out of the field, when what law enforcement really needs to do is invite more women in, he says.

"Women are the most underrepresented protected class in law enforcement today," says Orrick. Yet they make up more than half of college graduates and studies show they make excellent law enforcement employees.

He believes bringing more women into law enforcement could help fill the need for more officers as veterans retire. "We won't be able to address the issues of vacancies that will occur in the next few years if we don’t start focusing on attracting more women, and I mean right now," warns Orrick. "Because between 2010 and 2020 we're going to have a 20% reduction in the number of people in the workforce because of the aging of the baby boomers and the reduction in the number of Generation Y that will replace them." And if law enforcement doesn't hire them as female officers, plenty of other public safety organizations and the private sector will snap them up.

Lawson sought out the members of NAWLEE to help guide her along a career path because she did not feel she had a support network or anyone to turn to for advice or help in career advancement.

"Not enough emphasis is placed on mentoring female supervisors outside of women law enforcement organizations," Lawson says. "I think some agencies and surprisingly some females are hesitant to have training or mentoring programs specifically for female officers. Inherently, female supervisors face different challenges than their male counterparts and it is important that agencies implement workplace diversity through extensive supervisory training programs."

Officers from different backgrounds help improve law enforcement agencies, Orrick says, by introducing different ways of thinking.

New generations of both genders and all backgrounds will be filling retirees' shoes going forward, so it's important to understand generational differences and how they change the dynamics of an organization – at both the individual and group level.

The new generation of officers entering law enforcement expects immediate feedback, answers to why rules are followed, and strives for a better work-life balance that includes taking more vacation and working less overtime. These are just a few differences between new and veteran officers that require a different approach to supervising and interaction at all levels.


Building Leaders

Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Greg @ 4/2/2014 6:13 AM

"Some people see females and minorities as threats because they believe they have unfair advantages when it comes to the promotional process,"

Oh, puleeze. How many lawsuits were filed when the sargeant tests were not favoring minority candidates? How many promotions were due to color, not experience or studying for the tests. How much money have cities paid to white male candidates when courts found the promotions to be racist/sexist against white males.

kevopaz @ 4/2/2014 6:26 PM

I agree greg. Look at Chicago, at one time (if not still) they had 3 different hiring and promotional lists, female, minority (black & Hispanic) and "other". They would hire or promote several from each of the first 2 lists then 1 from the white list, then several more from the first two and then 1 from the white, etc etc. Besides we have all seen (or you are blind or not telling the truth) minorities get less or no discipline for same issue and promoted to "level the playing field" or show a "representation of the community". This was done in Phx and ALL other large departments. Some cities even toss in the Gay as a minority. Here I have seen a "triple" threat make it through the ranks to Commander based upon skin color,gender and life style. Granted whites were sometimes promoted over others but due to politics and good old boy crap not due to skin or sex. This has not changed, the good old boys still get promoted and then the remaining slots filled with "target figures".

Joe @ 10/31/2014 8:39 AM

It is amazing see how us "old timers" treated being a cop as a career, now the new generation treats it as a Job. They need immediate feedback. Here is immediate feedback, "you picked the wrong profession, your fired!". And what a statement " "Women are the most underrepresented protected class in law enforcement today," says Orrick. Yet they make up more than half of college graduates and studies show they make excellent law enforcement employees." where did you get these statistics? It is not a male vs. female issue, if you can do the job great, but if you are not physically up to it (male or female) you better know how to fight because I don't need to save my butt and yours too. And about minorities, Kevopaz, you are correct saw it in 1990 at Phx PD minorities were given far more chances in both academies to succeed, when white males were held to a higher standard. And thank God I retired, wouldn't want to have police work as my career these days.

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