Law EnforcementPublic Safety

The History of Women in Law Enforcement

Women are relatively new to law enforcement, but their contributions have been significant. Research has shown that female police officers are a valuable resource in any police department. Women excel in interpersonal skills and help advance community policing, something that we realize is extremely important. Studies have also found that female police officers are more effective in responding to calls for violence against women – with findings showing they are less likely to use excessive force or draw their weapons in high-stress situations. 

So, we’re celebrating all the women in blue with a history lesson on women in law enforcement.  

Police Matrons 

Women got their start in law enforcement working as “police matrons.” The job differed from what we think of as law enforcement today and was actually a little closer to a social worker who took care of women and children in police custody.  

The First Female Police Officer  

Women really broke into the policing field in the late 1800s when Marie Owens became the first female police officer. She started in the Chicago Police Department in 1891 and over the next few years major cities like Portland, Oregon; Long Beach, CA; and Los Angeles added female police officers to their ranks. For the next 50 years the number of women in the force grew, but they worked primarily entry-level jobs. 

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It wasn’t until 1943 that we saw women in leadership positions in the force when Frances Glessner Lee became captain of the New Hampshire State Police.  

Women in Law Enforcement Today  

Today, women make up about 13% of people in law enforcement. It’s a growing number, but it remains a male-dominated industry and there’s lots of room for growth for women. Many law enforcement organizations are exploring ways to recruit and keep women as part of their police force. There’s also been an increased focus on community outreach to show young women and girls from a young age that policing is a legitimate career choice for them. We’ve also seen an increase in the amount of gear for women in law enforcement from some of our favorite brands. That’s great news, because it’s important that our women in blue have the tools they need to do their job effectively.

Looking to get your favorite Female Officer a gift to celebrate Women’s History Month? 

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