Influence of Gender on Perceptions of Barriers to a Police Patrol Career

Date01 September 2020
Published date01 September 2020
Subject MatterArticles
Influence of Gender
on Perceptions of
Barriers to a Police
Patrol Career
Michael T. Rossler
Cara E. Rabe-Hemp
Meghan Peuterbaugh
, and
Charles Scheer
Policing as an institution has been under immense pressure to increase the repre-
sentation of women as police patrol officers. As the representation of women in
policing has plateaued, increasing research has focused on barriers to women enter-
ing patrol work but has not examined the salience of these barriers with respect to
males or reliably determined which barriers are most influential to desire to enter a
police patrol career prior to employment. Drawing upon survey responses from
more than 640 students enrolled in criminal justice courses across five universities
(i.e., University of Southern Mississippi, Illinois State University, University of
Massachusetts-Lowell, Indiana University-Purdue University Indiana, and Missouri
State University), the current inquiry examines the degree to which female and
male students differ in their perceptions of barriers to entering a patrol career
frequently listed in the literature. The findings indicate that female students view
many of these obstacles differently than male students and that these perceptions
influence interest in patrol careers.
Department of Criminal Justice Sciences, Illinois State University
College of Applied Science and Technology, Illinois State University
School of Criminal Justice, Forensic Science, and Security, The University of Southern Mississippi
Corresponding Author:
Michael T. Rossler, Department of Criminal Justice Sciences, Illinois State University, Campus Box 5250,
Normal, IL 61790, USA.
Police Quarterly
2020, Vol. 23(3) 368–395
!The Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1098611120907870
gender, recruitment, careers, patrol, barriers
In 1978, Catherine Milton (1978), a respected police scholar, predicted that
“within a few decades 50 percent of all police off‌icers will be women”
(p. 185). She was not alone in her prediction. Many scholars predicted that
the numeric representation of women in policing would continue to increase
(Martin, 1980; Pike, 1985). When examining the historical progression of female
representation in policing, the reason for Milton’s prediction becomes appar-
ent—the percent of women in the sworn police ranks almost tripled from 1971
to 1980 and then doubled again by 2000 (Uniform Crime Reporting, 1972, 1981,
1991, 2001, 2010; Hickman & Reaves, 2006; Reaves, 2010; Reaves & Goldberg,
1999; Reaves & Hickman, 2004).Forty years after Milton’s prediction, however,
instead of showing a continued climb, the progress that women were making in
policing has stalled.
The possible explanations for the stalled growth of women in policing pri-
marily focus on barriers to police recruitment and retention. Much of this
research has pointed to disparate recruitment and hiring processes, such as
physical f‌itness tests, academy and f‌ield training experiences, and discriminatory
or outdated hiring practices (Chappell & Lanza-Kaduce, 2010; Cordner &
Cordner, 2011; Kringen, 2014; Prokos & Padavic, 2002; Reaves, 2015;
Schuck, 2014), along with rescinding or expiring consent decrees and other
aff‌irmative action initiatives that were more common in the 1970–1990s
(Martin, 1991; Sass & Troyer, 1999; Sklansky, 2006). Alternatively,
another explanation is that women may simply not be interested in police
employment (Yim, 2009) or have been socialized to perceive themselves as less
qualif‌ied for male-dominated careers (Lawless & Fox, 2005; Yim, 2009). Prior
research indicates that socialization experiences orient women toward careers in
which they can pursue “communal” or helping goals and avoid conf‌lict
(Raganella & White, 2004; Schneider et al., 2016). The perception of policing
as male-dominated and lacking in female role models are also likely inf‌luences
on female interest in police employment (Austin & Hummer, 1999; Campbell &
Wolbrecht, 2006; National Center for Women and Policing, 2002).
Recent research suggests that the increased representation of women in polic-
ing impacts police organizations positively (Barnes et al., 2018; Schuck, 2018).
For example, Barnes et al. (2018) found that citizens believed that
increasing women’s participation in policing would reduce police corruption
due to the perception of women as outsiders to policing and more
cautious than male off‌icers. In addition, Schuck (2018) reported that the
Rossler et al. 369

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