Discussion 3- female police officers

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 Female Police Officers: Do female police officers perform as well as male officers? 

1. Do you think the methodology used to complete this study was valid?

2. What limitations do you see, if any, in the way the study was conducted?

3. Given the fact that female officers are part of most mainstream police agencies are these findings any different today than in 1974? Why or Why not

female Police officers: Do female officeRs PeRfoRm as Well as male officeRs?
Bloch, P., and D. Anderson (1974). Policewomen on Patrol. Washington, DC: Police Foundation.


As women began establishing themselves as police officers, some police administrators remained skeptical of their performance. Should women perform the same duties as men? Could women perform their duties as well as men? Would hiring a large number of female police officers change the nature of police work? These were all questions that had no answers. The first effort to address those questions came from a comprehensive study of women in police work conducted by the Police Foundation and the Urban Institute in the early 1970s. In collaboration with the Metropolitan Police of the District of Columbia, Peter Bloch and Deborah Anderson (1974) carried out an experiment to compare the job performance of male and female police officers. Results from the study were published in 1974 under the title “Policewomen on Patrol.”5 The Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., was well known for its progres-sive policies regarding female officers. Beginning in 1969, the department, under the direction of Chief Jerry Wilson, advocated expanding the role of women in policing. He allowed women to work as investigators and assigned them to the technical squad. In 1972, Wilson hired a large number of female police officers and assigned them to patrol. It was a significant move that went against national trends of allowing only a few women to work as patrol officers. It also presented a unique opportunity for researchers to assess female officers’ job performance.

The Experiment

The Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department hired 86 women between 1971 and 1973 (referred to in the study as “new women”). No special recruitment strategies were used to attract the female applicants because the starting salary of $8,500 to $10,000 appeared to be motivation enough. Another 25 women hired between 1969 and 1971 (“reassigned women”) also participated in the study, and each had undergone a “retraining” period to prepare them for reassignment to patrol. Each of the new female officers was “matched” to a male officer with similar character-istics who had graduated from the same police academy training class. Matching is frequently used in quasi-experimental research when a researcher is unable to randomly assign study par-ticipants to comparison groups. Matching can help control for differences between groups that might influence the study outcome (such as differences based on the age and experience of an officer). The police department served a total of seven districts within Washington, D.C. Each district consisted of two platoons with three sections in each platoon. Each section was broken into five squads with 10 to 12 officers per squad. The “new women” officers were assigned to two districts: one and seven. These districts would be the “experimental districts” where the women comprised more than 10 percent of the personnel. Each woman was “matched” to a male offi-cer (“comparison men”) from districts five and six (“comparison districts”). The females could not be matched to officers within their own district because the women made up a significant proportion of the patrol force within these districts. Districts five and six were selected because they were the most similar to districts one and seven in terms of crime rates and population characteristics. No females were assigned to the comparison districts. This allowed researchers to examine the performance of new male police officers assigned to what had always been all-male districts. Because the prior job assignments of the “reassigned women” were different from those for the men, they could not be matched. Researchers ran into a few problems during the initial stage of the study. Some of the male officers reported to dispatch that they were patrolling alone even though they had been assigned a female partner. Several women who were required to wear skirts complained about the cold weather and were reassigned to station house duties. To address these problems, Chief Wilson set forth guidelines that prohibited any special treatment for the women. Women would receive the same type of assignments (e.g., foot patrol, two officer units) and the same number of assign-ments. For the most part, officers complied with the guidelines for the rest of the study period. Researchers collected an impressive amount of data from department records (archival
data), surveys, and from observations over a two-year period. Data were used to answer three research questions:
1. Could women perform patrol work as well as men? 2. Were there any benefits or drawbacks to hiring women as patrol officers? 3. What was the impact of hiring a large number of women on police functioning?
The police department provided personnel information for each of the study participants. Researchers had access to performance reviews and civil service scores in addition to selection, interview, and training data. Included in each file was an officer’s demographic information and prior criminal history (if applicable). Six different surveys were developed for the study. Chief Wilson himself administered the
first survey. A questionnaire was mailed to each of the districts with female officers. Supervisors were asked to report the womens’ assignments (patrol, investigation, or station duty) and to rate each officer on a variety of performance indicators. Surveys were completed for 71 new female officers and 54 comparison male officers (for a 91 percent response rate). The second survey was a service survey. Researches contacted 131 people who had been in contact with the officers during the study period. A combination of telephone and face-to-face interviews were used to assess general attitudes about female police officers and their performance. A general community survey was also administered to 129 residents to measure citizens’ attitudes about policewomen. A random sample of respondents was selected via a list of phone numbers randomly generated by a computer. The advantage of this method over use of a phone book is the ability to con-tact persons with unlisted phone numbers. The fourth survey was administered directly to those who supervised study participants. Eighty-four sergeants, captains, and lieutenants completed an anonymous questionnaire to determine their attitudes and opinions about working with women. The supervisors were also asked to rate each of the officers participating in the study (both male and female). Study participants (new women, comparison men, and other male patrol officers) were asked to complete a similar survey to assess their attitudes and opinions as well. Groups of researchers were also paid to accompany and observe both the male and female
police officers while on duty. Observational data are sometimes used to supplement survey data when researchers are interested in examining interactions between individuals and groups. Two groups of observers were recruited: civilian and police. Police observers were selected from offi-cers not participating as subjects in the study. Each had at least one year of experience on the job. Observers received detailed instructions and a set of uniform procedures for collecting data, and they attended training meetings prior to the start of the project. Using a structured data collec-tion form, the observers recorded demographic information on each officer and then completed a separate form for each observed incident or encounter. Observers recorded the actions and conversations of both officers and citizens. This provided another measure of officer perfor-mance and citizens’ attitudes. Observers recorded information from 191 shifts from late June to early September 1973. They observed shifts with one-officer patrols (female or male), shifts with coed (two-officer) patrols, and two-officer patrols with males only or females only. This allowed researchers to examine a variety of assignments. To guarantee enough incidents for the study, observers accompanied officers working evening shifts only.
At the end of 1972, Chief Wilson issued a public statement acknowledging the success of the experi-ment. He stated that, in the future, men and women would be hired from the same civil service list and, in an effort to recruit more female applicants, he lowered the minimum height requirement from 5′7′′ to 5′0′′. The guidelines issued earlier in the experiment to ensure equal treatment were no longer being enforced, meaning that supervisors were free to assign officers as they felt appropriate. This resulted in some observed differences in assignments beginning mid-1973. Only 45 percent of the new women continued as patrol officers compared to 71 percent of the comparison group of men. Thirty-one percent of the females had been assigned to “inside” details such as clerical, juvenile division, or public relations. Only 12 percent of the men were assigned to these duties. The survey administered by Chief Wilson uncovered some differences in assignments that occurred during the study period as well. Men were once again less likely to be assigned to station duties and were more likely assigned to one-officer patrol cars. Women were more likely assigned to one-officer foot patrol. Researchers were not able to determine if the differences were because females requested these assignments or whether supervisors felt that these assignments were more appropriate for women. By October 1973, there were 228 women (5 percent of the police force) working for the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C. Sixty-one percent of these women were assigned to patrol. To answer the research questions put forth above, researchers analyzed data derived from the multiple sources mentioned earlier. Results from the study are presented below.
joB PeRfoRmance There were few differences in the overall job performance or workload between male and female police officers. The new women responded to slightly fewer incidents than the comparison men. Observations revealed that women had 4.40 incidents per hour versus 5.28 for men. This difference was attributed to the comparison men initiating more traffic stops. Women responded to more dispatch incidents than men, which took longer than traffic stops. This situation could have also explained the differences in patrol activities. No differences were found in the amount of time it took to respond to each incident. Few differences were reported in the types of calls for service with the exception that new women responded to more drunk and disorderly calls. There were no differences between new women and comparison men in terms of the emotional states of the citizens involved in the encounters or in the occurrence of threaten-ing behaviors. In other words, a police officer’s sex had no influence on citizens’ behaviors. Police officer’s sex was also unrelated to an officer’s ability to respond to a threatening citizen. Also, no differences in the officers’ attitudes toward citizens were found. The most commonly used measures of job performance in police work are the number of
arrests and the number of traffic citations by a single officer. These two items were readily avail-able to researchers and were easily quantified. A review of the chief’s survey data found that com-parison men made more felony and misdemeanor arrests and issued more traffic citations than the new women. Researchers attributed these differences to the more varied work assignments of women. Female officers were engaged in more non-patrol activities that restricted their opportu-nities to arrest and ticket suspects. Researchers also noted that 20 percent of the female officers made as many arrests, if not more, as male officers. While the number of arrests and citations provided an assessment of an officer’s productivity, the numbers by themselves revealed nothing about whether or not the arrests and tickets were valid. To address this issue, researchers assessed the quality of the arrests by examining data from the prosecutor’s management information sys-tem for all serious offenses. While cases brought in by new women were more likely to be dis-missed immediately, comparison men had more charges dropped later in the process. There were no differences in conviction rates. A review of personnel records also revealed no differences in the departmental ratings
between new women and comparison men. Departmental reviews took place one year after an officer’s appointment and included such assessment items as attitudes and behaviors, learning ability, technical knowledge and abilities, willingness to accept responsibility, and communica-tion skills. The chief’s survey included questions to assess patrol ability only. A few of the items produced differences that favored the male officers. Males performed better on the following items: protecting a partner from violence, responding to a public fight, and responding to a disor-derly male citizen. Supervisors also completed an anonymous survey to assess patrol performance for each new officer. Male officers once again received slightly higher ratings than the females, but the 1973 data found no differences in general competence, ability to respond to violence, and ability to care for the injured and distressed. Contrary to many stereotypes about women in the workforce, female officers did not take sick
leave more often, were not injured on the job more frequently, and were just as skillful in their driv-ing abilities (although the women took longer to pass their driving tests). Comparison men were more likely to have been involved in “serious unbecoming conduct” (e.g., giving false statements to a police official or being arrested for disorderly conduct while off-duty) and mild misconduct (e.g., sleeping during a police academy class or not completing an assignment). New women were more likely to have been cited for being late to work. There were no differences in the resignation rates of men versus women. Observers reported very few differences in the reactions of citizens toward the male and female officers. Survey data also showed a high level of citizen satisfaction with both male and female officers. Sixty-three percent of the people who had contact with a female officer reported that she was “very good” or “good” whereas 33 percent reported that a female officer was
“average.” These figures were comparable to those for male officers. Several citizens reported that their experiences with female officers had improved their general attitudes toward women.
commUnity anD officeR attitUDes In addition to comparing job performance between male and female police officers, researchers also assessed citizens’ and police officers’ attitudes toward women assigned to patrol. Results from the community survey (administered one year after the new women were assigned to patrol) showed a considerable amount of acceptance of females in their new role. Ninety percent of the citizens surveyed indicated that they had seen a female officer in person, and most citizens indicated that women should be afforded the opportu-nity for police work. Citizens were somewhat skeptical about the ability of a female police officer to respond to a violent situation but felt that a male and female patrol team would be effective in responding to male-female disputes. The police officer surveys revealed some interesting differ-ences. Supervisors, patrolmen, and patrol women all indicated that males were better at respond-ing to a disorderly male, but that women were better at questioning rape victims. Supervisors and male patrol officers believed men were better at handling armed robbery victims, responding to noisy teenagers and drunks, and reacting to armed suspects. The female patrol officers did not


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