America is known as the land of opportunity. Due to this, we choose to perceive that our social structure is continuously moving towards total equality. This is especially true when it comes to gender roles. One place where these roles have often come into conflict is in the area of law enforcement. Traditionally, men have been preferred for the more strenuous positions, such as SWAT. However, is this really based on inherent differences between the genders, or is there something else afoot? Are police forces really more sensitive to this issue in modern times? We’ll take a look at whether gender discrimination continues to affect law enforcement agencies.


There’s no doubt that women are taking tremendous strides when it comes to knocking down glass ceilings. In the field of law enforcement, we have seen many women climb the ladder to become bureau chiefs and captains. As recent as 2017, Los Angeles had seven different female police chiefs. Furthermore, many different departments (on both the local and federal level) have stepped up recruiting efforts to get more women involved. From this information, it seems that women are being treated equally across the board.

In fact, many people would argue that gender is no longer an issue in law enforcement. It is not uncommon to see female officers patrolling the streets at any time of the day. Some even argue that the lack of women in the field is simply due to the unique nature of the hiring pool. It’s no secret that a large number of applicants are men. According to The University of San Diego, only 11.6% of America’s police force is made up of women. In either case, there is a case to be made that traditional gender roles no longer come in to play.


On the other side of the debate, pro-equality advocates will point out that not all is fair. Women still suffer a large amount of discrimination in all aspects of the job. For one, they are subjected to a high rate of sexual harassment. Male staff members usually do not have to undergo this type of treatment.

Furthermore, some women are denied job opportunities or subjected to disciplinary action for not welcoming sexual advances. According to Winer, Burritt & Tillis LLP, male officers usually receive much less severe discipline than female officers when it comes to police misconduct. When things like this occur, the gender inequality issue is clear.

Other Gender-Related Issues

One other area of possible gender discrimination involves the transgender community. Although many laws now exist to combat this, it remains a problem throughout the country. Many people, both inside and outside of police departments, simply do not want transgender individuals working on the force. However, we are starting to see more members of this community break the employment barriers. Take Joan Abbink of Austin, Texas, for example. Such pioneers are helping to change the face of law enforcement.

When it comes to answering whether gender discrimination in law enforcement still exists, the answer is complex. To some degree, great strides have been taken to equalize the playing field. Yet, there are still many instances where gender discrimination plagues certain departments. In the end, only time will tell if such discrimination will be completely eradicated.