The integration of women into law enforcement positions can be considered a large social change.[according to whom?] A century ago,[when?] there were few jobs open to women in law enforcement. A small number of women worked as correctional officers, and their assignments were usually limited to peripheral tasks. Women traditionally worked in juvenile facilities, handled crimes involving female offenders, or performed clerical tasks. In these early days, women were not considered as capable as men in law enforcement. Recently, many options have opened up, creating new possible careers.

State of Israel police men and women
Female law enforcement officers in India (2010)

Overview by country


The first female police officers in Australia were appointed in New South Wales in July 1915 with Lilian May Armfield (1884–1971) and Maude Marion Rhodes (–1956).[1]

On 1 December 1915, Kate Cocks (1875–1954) was appointed the first of two woman police constables, with Annie Ross, in South Australia,[2][3] a position that had equal powers to male officers.[4]

In Western Australia, discussions of female police officers were held in October 1915 but remained unfunded.[5] Helen Blanche Dugdale (1876–1952) and Laura Ethel Chipper (1879–1978) were appointed in August 1917 to commence duties on 1 September 1917 as the first two female officers.[6][7]

October 1917 saw Madge Connor appointed as a 'police agent' of the Victoria Police, and in 1924 became one of four to be appointed as a police officer. Also in October 1917, Kate Campbell of Launceston was appointed to the Tasmania Police.[8]

Queensland Police Department's first female police officers, Ellen O'Donnell and Zara Dare (1886–1965), were inducted in March 1931 to assist in inquiries involving female suspects and prisoners.[9] They were not granted uniform, police powers of arrest, nor superannuation.

The Federal Capital Territory Police appointed their first of two female officers on 18 April 1947, to be in plain clothes, and had powers as a probation officer.[10][11] The Northern Territory Police Force was accepting female officers by 1960, as long as they were unmarried, and aged between 25 and 35.

In June 1971, the first female promotion to superintendent was believed to be Miss Ethel Scott of the Western Australia Police.[12] In April 1980, Australia's first female police motorcyclist was believed to be Constable Kate Vanderlaan of the Northern Territory Police Force who rode a Honda 750 cc police special around Darwin.[13] NSW Police graduated a self-identified First Nations female officer in September 1982 given to be the State's first First Nations female officer.[14]

Australia's and Victoria's first female commissioner was Christine Nixon (1953–) in April 2001, to February 2009. Katarina Carroll (1963–) became the twentieth and first female commissioner of the Queensland Police Service, in 2019.


Women have played an important role in enforcement since the early 1990s in Austria. On 1 September 2017, Michaela Kardeis became the first female chief of federal Austrian police, which includes all police units in the country and a staff of 29,000 police officers.[15]


RCMP Riders

RCMP Training

The RCMP Depot Division is the only location for future RCMP cadets to complete their training held in Regina, Saskatchewan. The 26-week training of constables, conducted at the RCMP Academy, does not differentiate between men and women. The troop consists of 32 men and women who are required to follow their 26-week training together as a cadre.[16] Other municipal and provincial police services have their own similar training programs without gender disparity.


On September 16, 1974, thirty-two women were sworn in with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as their first female officers. All thirty-two were sworn in simultaneously across Canada as a gesture to ensure the pressure of being the first female RCMP officer was not transferred to one woman but for the group to uphold as a whole.

In 1994, Lenna Bradburn became the police chief of the service in Guelph, Ontario, becoming Canada's first female chief of police. Christine Silverberg became Calgary's first female Chief of Police in 1995. In 2006, Beverly Busson became the first female commissioner of the RCMP on an interim basis. In 2016, female officers make up 21% of all police officers in Canada. In 2018, Brenda Lucki becomes the first female RCMP commissioner on a permanent basis.


In Germany, women were employed in the police force from 1903, when Henriette Arendt was employed as a policewoman.[19]

The Netherlands

In 1920, the Dutch police force specifically called for women to be employed in the new police office dealing with children and sex crimes within the Amsterdam police force. Initially, this office employed nurses, but in 1923, Meta Kehrer became the first woman Inspector of the Dutch police force, and in 1943, she also became the first woman to be appointed chief inspector.[20]

New Zealand

Examined by at least 1936, the New Zealand Police did not admit women as police officers until 1941. They were not provided uniform, but had a lapel pin for their coats. By 1992, less than 10 per cent of officers were female.


In 1923, under the influence of concern expressed by the League of Nations about the increase in prostitution, crime among minors and crimes related to human trafficking, the Polish State Police began to consider establishing a separate women's section. Such a solution was advocated by, among others, the Polish Committee for Fighting Trafficking in Women and Children. Initially, the Central Bureau for International Fighting of Trafficking in Women and Children in the Republic of Poland, operating within Department II of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, was established, headed by a veteran of the Voluntary Legion of Women, Lieutenant Stanisława Paleolog.

Finally, on February 26, 1925, the Commander-in-Chief of the State Police signed a decree allowing women to work in the State Police. After training, the first 30 policewomen were admitted and by 1930 their number had increased to 50. Candidates could only be maids or childless widows between 25 and 45 years old, in good health, at least 164 cm (5 ft 4+12 in) tall and with short hair. Moreover, they had to provide a certificate of morality, an opinion about themselves issued by one of the women's organizations, and an assurance that they would not get married for 10 years after being accepted to the service.

Most of the policewomen from the first recruitment were sent to the Warsaw Sanitary and Social Brigade. The practice soon showed that policewomen were often more effective than their male colleagues in street scuffles, working with minors, or in interventions concerning domestic violence and sexual crimes. Policewomen also cooperated well with social organizations that dealt with human trafficking and pimping, such as the so-called station missions, women's protection societies or Catholic women's orders.

In August 1935, an independent Referat for Officers and Private Women was created at Department IV of the National Police Headquarters, headed by Assistant Commissioner Stanisława Paleolog. At that time a special 9-month course for female privates was created, the graduates of which were sent as constables to prevention or investigation units. Women's Police units operated in Warsaw, Vilnius, Kraków, Lviv and Łódź. Apart from separate women's units, policewomen were also assigned to criminal brigades or juvenile detention rooms in Poznań, Gdynia, Kalisz, Lublin and Stanisławów. By the end of 1936, another 112 women were taken into service, and in the following years a few dozen more were recruited each year. In total, until the outbreak of World War II, courses at the Warsaw School for State Police Officers were completed by about 300 policewomen.

During the September campaign, most of the female police shared the fate of their colleagues from local police stations. Stanisława Paleologna herself, promoted to the rank of commissioner in 1939, separated from the evacuation transport of the National Police Headquarters and, together with part of the policewomen's training company, took part in the battles of General Franciszek Kleeberg's Independent Operational Group "Polesie". During the occupation, as part of the State Security Corps, Paleolog trained future female cadres for the post-war Polish police. After the war she remained in exile in Great Britain, where she cooperated with Scotland Yard, and in 1952, she published the first monograph of the Polish women's police entitled "The women police of Poland (1925-1939)".[21]

According to data from February 2012, women made up 13456 out of 97834 police officers, and 17495 women work in the police as civilian staff.[22]


A Swedish policewoman with her male counterpart

In 1908, the first three women, Agda Hallin, Maria Andersson and Erica Ström, were employed in the Swedish Police Authority in Stockholm upon the request of the Swedish National Council of Women, who referred to the example of Germany.[23] Their trial period was deemed successful and from 1910 onward, policewomen were employed in other Swedish cities. However, they did not have the same rights as their male colleagues: their title were Polissyster ('Police Sister'), and their tasks concerned women and children, such as taking care of children brought under custody, performing body searches on women, and other similar tasks which were considered unsuitable for male police officers.[23]

The introduction of Competence Law in 1923, which formally guaranteed women all positions in society, was not applicable in the police force because of the two exceptions included in the law which excluded women from the office of priest in the state church - as well as from the military, which was interpreted to include all public professions in which women could use the monopoly on violence.

In 1930, the Polissyster were given extended rights and were allowed to be present at houses searches in women's homes, conduct interrogations of females related to sexual crimes, and do patrol reconnaissance.[23] In 1944, the first formal police course for women opened; in 1954, the title "police sister" was dropped and police officers could be both men and women. From 1957, women received equal police education to that of their male colleagues.[23] In 2019, 33 per cent of Sweden's police officers were women.[24]

United Kingdom

Main article: Women in policing in the United Kingdom

Cressida Dick, former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service in London.

World War I provided an impetus for the first appointment of female officers. The first woman to be appointed a police officer with full powers of arrest was Edith Smith (1876–1923), who was sworn in to Grantham Borough Police in August 1915. A small number were appointed in the ensuing years. Policewomen would originally be in separate teams or divisions from their male colleagues, such as the A4 division in the Metropolitan Police. Their duties were different, with the early policewomen being limited to dealing with women and children. This separation ended in the 1970s.

Until 1998, women in the police had their rank prefixed with a letter W (for example, "WPC" for Constable).

In March 2016, 28.6% of police officers in England and Wales were women.[25] This was an increase from 23.3% in 2007.[25] Notable women in the police include Cressida Dick, the former Commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police Service.

United States

Main article: Women in law enforcement in the United States

The first policewomen in the United States included Marie Owens, who joined the Chicago Police department in 1891; Lola Baldwin, who was sworn in by the city of Portland in 1908; Fanny Bixby, also sworn into office in 1908 by the city of Long Beach, California; and Alice Stebbins Wells, who was initiated into the Los Angeles Police Department in 1910.[26] The first unofficial U.S. Secret Service female special agent was Florence Bolan.[27] She joined the service in 1917.[28] In 1924, Bolan was promoted to operative (the title preceding special agent) where she performed duties, such as searching female prisoners and engage in occasional fieldwork.[28] In 1943, Frances Glessner Lee was appointed captain in the New Hampshire State Police, becoming the first woman police captain in the United States.[29]

Since then, women have made progress in the world of law enforcement. The percentage of women rose from 7.6% in 1987, to 12% in 2007 across the United States.[30]


Police women in Indonesia.
Delegates of the 3rd Annual Women in Policing Conference in Tbilisi, Georgia. March 4, 2014.
Police women in Chennai, India in 2010

Despite women being in law enforcement for over one hundred years, they are still faced with discrimination and harassment. Policewomen often face discrimination from their fellow officers and many women encounter the "glass ceiling", meaning they are not able to move up in rank and can only advance as far as the imposed ceiling will allow.[31] Women tend to overlook and minimize the discrimination they face.[32] Discrimination and problems towards women in law enforcement are not limited to the station house. Many policewomen who are married to other officers face a higher risk of domestic violence. A 2007 study stated 27,000-36,000 female police officers may be a victim of domestic violence. Domestic violence increases to nearly 40%, from a normal societal level of 30%, in households of officers.[32]

While women are not as likely to be physically assaulted while on the job, they do face more sexual harassment, most of which comes from fellow officers. In 2009, 77% of policewomen from thirty-five different counties have reported sexual harassment for their colleagues.[33] Women are asked to “go behind the station house” or are told other inappropriate things while on the job. Not only that, but there is often physical sexual harassment that takes place in the station house. So it is not only verbal, but also physical sexual harassment that policewomen face on a daily basis.[34] Policewomen also experience greater mobility, frequently being moved from one assignment to another. As of 1973, 45% of policewomen and 71% of policemen remained in their regular uniforms, 31% of policewomen and 12% of policemen were given inside assignments, and 12% of policewomen and 4% of policemen had other street assignments.[34] Policewomen are less likely to be promoted within the department (going from officer to sergeant, sergeant to lieutenant, etc.) and are also more likely to be given different assignments and are less likely to keep the same beat (patrol position).

Gender inequality plays a major role in the law enforcement field. Women in law enforcement are often resented by their male counterparts and many face harassment (Crooke). Many do not try to strive for higher positions because they may fear abuse by male coworkers, while few women receive the guidance they need to overcome these obstacles. Many women may feel they need to prove themselves to be accepted.

One preconception of female officers is they are more capable in communicating with citizens because they come off as more disarming and can talk their way through difficult situations. A study indicated that due to female officers' perseverance and unique abilities, they are becoming a fundamental part of contemporary policing.[35] Women are found to response more effectively to incidents of violence against women, which make up approximately half of the calls to police.[36] Research also indicates that women are less likely to use excessive force or pull their weapon.[37]


Multiple studies have shown that black women in particular suffer from a matrix of domination and discrimination as they negotiate the politics of institutional racism, affirmative action, and tokenism.[38] As the section above notes, there is no single “female experience” of the policing profession. Collins (1990) and Martin (1994) argue that race gives black female police officers a distinct feminist consciousness of their experiences. These experiences are colored by stereotypes attributed to black women as “hot mamas,” “welfare queens,” and “mammies.”These caricatures are contrasted by perceptions of white women as “pure,” “submissive,” and “domestic.”[39] While both sets of stereotypes are problematic, those attributed to black women lead to more suspicion and hostility in the workplace. Black women report receiving less protection and respect from their male colleagues. For many, black female officers lack the “pedestal” of femininity enjoyed by white women in the profession.[40] In a study done by the College of Police and Security Studies, some 29% of white female officers acknowledged that black women in law enforcement have a harder time than white women.[41] Discrimination among female police officers also seems to be prevalent even though black police officers, both male and female, make up only 12% of all local departments.[42] There is also the issue of women being excluded from special units, with at least 29% of the white women and 42% of the black women mentioning this phenomenon.[41]

Susan E. Martin (1994) conducted a study in Chicago interviewing both male and female command staff and officers on their perceptions of discrimination in the workplace. The results of this study showed that in general, women experienced more discrimination than men. Experiences differed within races as well, with black women reporting higher rates of discrimination than black men.[40]


Female police supporting LGBT pride parade in California

The sexual orientation of a police officer can also influence the experiences of that officer. Women with non-heterosexual orientations deal with an additional set of stereotypes, exclusion, and harassment. Galvin-White and O'Neil (2015) examined how lesbian police officers negotiate their identities and relationships in the workplace. As they note, lesbian police officers must negotiate an identity that is "invisible" in that it is not necessarily detected by sight. Therefore, it is largely up to the individual to decide whether or not they come out to her colleagues. Many decide not to come out due to the stigmas surrounding LGBT identities, which may manifest themselves through discriminatory hiring processes and promotions. Galvin-White and O'Neil demonstrate that the decision to come out varies by individual and across the profession. The most salient factor influencing an individual's decision to come out is the extent of homophobia in the work environment.[43]

Just as women are discriminated against in the police force for not fulfilling the traditional male traits of a police officer, so are members of the LGBT community for challenging traditional gender norms. While there have been recent efforts to recruit gay and lesbian police officers to boost diversity in the profession, the stigmas and challenges facing these officers remain. Research shows that lesbian officers who have come out are often excluded by both their male and female colleagues for not conforming to traditional femininity. Many of the studies Galvin-White and O'Neil cite report that lesbian police officers are often not able to trust their colleagues for backup or protection.[43]

See also


  1. ^ "Female police selected". The Telegraph (Brisbane). No. 13, 287. Queensland, Australia. 23 June 1915. p. 7 (Second edition). Retrieved 17 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  2. ^ "Women patrols". Chronicle. Vol. LVIII, no. 2, 987. South Australia. 20 November 1915. p. 16. Retrieved 17 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ "The police women". The Express and Telegraph. Vol. LIII, no. 15, 693. South Australia. 2 December 1915. p. 4 (5 o'clock edition. sports number.). Retrieved 17 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  4. ^ "Kate Cocks, MBE | SA History Hub". Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  5. ^ "Policewoman proposal". Kalgoorlie Western Argus. Vol. 21, no. 4935. Western Australia. 26 October 1915. p. 29. Retrieved 17 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  6. ^ "Women police in W.A." Kalgoorlie Miner. Vol. 23, no. 5812. Western Australia. 29 August 1917. p. 3. Retrieved 17 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ "Death of first W.A. Policewoman". Recorder. No. 13, 996. South Australia. 2 January 1953. p. 2. Retrieved 17 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  8. ^ "News of the day". The Mercury. Vol. CVII, no. 14, 984. Tasmania, Australia. 29 October 1917. p. 4. Retrieved 17 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  9. ^ "Woman Police Appointed". The Queenslander. Queensland, Australia. 5 March 1931. p. 45. Retrieved 20 January 2018 – via National Library of Australia.
  10. ^ "50th Anniversary". The Canberra Times. Vol. 51, no. 14, 488. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 20 September 1976. p. 48 (50th anniversary supplement The Canberra Times). Retrieved 19 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ "Police women for Canberra". The Canberra Times. Vol. 21, no. 6, 327. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 19 July 1947. p. 4. Retrieved 19 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  12. ^ "In brief". The Canberra Times. Vol. 45, no. 12, 835. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 12 June 1971. p. 3. Retrieved 19 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  13. ^ "Policewoman". The Canberra Times. Vol. 54, no. 16, 273. Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 15 April 1980. p. 12. Retrieved 18 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  14. ^ "Advertising". Torres News. Vol. X, no. 37. Queensland, Australia. 21 September 1982. p. 15. Retrieved 19 December 2021 – via National Library of Australia.
  15. ^ "ZiB2 Interview with Lou Lorenz-Dittlbacher (in German)". ORF.AT. Archived from the original on 2 September 2017. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  16. ^ Royal Canadian Mounted Police (13 January 2017). "Cadet Training". Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  17. ^ Canadian encyclopedia title. "Rose Fortune". The Canadian Encyclopedia. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 14 February 2018.
  18. ^ Royal Canadian Mounted Police (17 December 2014). "Women in the RCMP". Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Government of Canada. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  19. ^ History Archived 2018-02-18 at the Wayback Machine, European Network of Policewomen, in German, retrieved 22 January 2015
  20. ^ Gemma Blok, Kehrer, Meta, in: Digitaal Vrouwenlexicon van Nederland. URL:,_Meta [19/10/2017]
  21. ^ Stanisława Paleolog; Eileen Garlinska; Kordian Zamorski (1952). The women police of Poland (1925-1939). Westminster: Association for Moral and Social Hygiene. OCLC 320869550.
  22. ^ "Kobiety w Policji". Policja. 8 March 2012. Retrieved 9 February 2023.
  23. ^ a b c d "Läkartidningen nr 47 2008 volym 105" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 June 2012. Retrieved 8 November 2015.
  24. ^ "Polis igår och idag | Polismuseet".
  25. ^ a b "Police workforce, England and Wales, 31 March 2016" (PDF). 21 July 2016. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
  26. ^ Eisenberg, Adam (9 September 2010). "LAPD hired nation's first policewoman". Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  27. ^ "A history of the Secret Service". CBS News. 5 July 2015. Retrieved 15 April 2023.
  28. ^ a b "FY 2022 United States Secret Service Annual Report" (PDF). United States Secret Service. 2023. p. 26. Retrieved 15 April 2023.Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  29. ^ "Visible Proofs: Forensic Views of the Body: Galleries: Biographies: Frances Glessner Lee (1878–1962)". Retrieved 4 February 2018.
  30. ^ "Women in Law Enforcement". Discover Policing. 11 March 2002. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
  31. ^ "Police Chief Magazine - View Article".
  32. ^ a b "Female officers surviving police perpetrated domestic violence - Abuse of power - Diane Wetendorf Inc".
  33. ^ "Sexual Harassment Among Male and Female Police Officers". Providentia.
  34. ^ a b Breaking and Entering Policewomen on Patrol. Martin. University of California Press. London. 1980.
  35. ^ Lanier, Mark M. (1996). "An Evolutionary Typology of Women Police Officers". Women & Criminal Justice. 8 (2): 35–57. doi:10.1300/J012v08n02_03.
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  40. ^ a b Martin, Susan E. (1998). ""Outsider within" the Station House: The Impact of Race and Gender on Black Women Police". Social Problems. 41 (3): 383–400. doi:10.1525/sp.1994.41.3.03x0445c.
  41. ^ a b Price, Barbara Raffel. (1996). "Female Police Officers In The United States". Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  42. ^ Kesling, Ben (14 May 2015). "Percentage of African-Americans in U.S. Police Departments Remains Flat Since 2007". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  43. ^ a b Galvin-White, Christine M.; O'Neil, Eryn Nicole (2015). "Lesbian Police Officers' Interpersonal Working Relationships and Sexuality Disclosure: A Qualitative Study." Feminist Criminology.