Lieutenant Rosemarie Murphy and Detective Lieutenant Paula Loud of the Massachusetts State Police have filed a discrimination suit with the state’s discrimination agency in which they allege that their department deliberately hindered women’s opportunities for promotion. The two Lieutenants claim that after being notified by police officials that they had passed the Captain’s Promotional Examination and had been promoted, that they were later informed that the promotions had been put “on hold” and that they should return to their studying. Further, the suit claims that the department deliberately waited for a promotion list in which the names of the two female lieutenants did not appear in order to fill 8 new Captain slots with males. The Department currently has only one female command staff, and one female captain.
Despite overwhelming evidence that women and men are equally capable of police work, widespread discrimination in police hiring and promotion keep the numbers of women in command positions low. The Massachusetts case closely mirrors the situation for women in law enforcement nationwide. According to data from the National Center for Women & Policing’s 2001 Status of Women in Policing Survey, women hold less than 10% of command positions in police departments nationwide. Even more shocking is that in 50% of all large police agencies, and 90% of all rural agencies, there is not a single woman in a top command position.
In related regional news, a recent conference sponsored by the Essex County, Massachusetts Sheriff’s Department brought together over 300 women officers to discuss the challenges encountered by women in law enforcement. Bypassed promotions and women’s perception that management posts are unattainable were among the topics addressed. Kimberly Jo O’Hara, Assistant Superintendent of the Essex County Sheriff’s Department, and active member of the National Center for Women & Policing, organized the event.