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This Article, written as part of The George Washington Law Review Symposium on “Addressing the Crisis in Policing Today,” examines how American police departments can improve their recruitment and retention of women. Women currently make up a mere 13% of all police officers in the United States. This number has remained frustratingly low and stagnant for years.
This Article begins by considering the potentially harmful consequences of the underrepresentation of women in American policing. Some commentators have recently argued that the hiring of more women may, by itself, help transform policing. To evaluate this hypothesis, the first part of this Article examines the existing empirical research on officer gender and policing outcomes. It finds only mixed support for the claim that hiring more women, by itself, will produce better policing outcomes. Thus, this Article argues that hiring more women alone will not result in transformative reductions in rates of officer use of force or misconduct. Instead, the hiring of more women must be just one part of a broader plan to rethink the culture of American police departments.
The second part of this Article considers how American police departments can meaningfully increase the recruitment and retention of women officers through improved recruitment efforts, enhanced employment benefits, and revamped entrance exams. Combined, these steps could meaningfully increase the number of women in law enforcement, thereby gradually contributing to broader cultural change within the institution of policing.