Although the number of women police officers in major cities has increased, smaller towns lag far behind. Women officers comprise about 15% of the nation’s largest departments, up from three percent 20 years ago. Advocacy groups and lawsuits have pressured the larger cities to make this change but have not challenged small cities. Thus, suburban police chiefs have little incentive to let go of tradition and urge women to apply for openings. These chiefs, however, argue that the low number of women officers is not their fault. They argue that most women do not apply for police work, so most of the jobs go to men.
A few smaller departments have made efforts to encourage female applicants. In New Haven, Conn., recruiters advertise job openings in women’s groups’ newsletters and hand out fliers in day care centers. This tactic worked well for Officer Jennifer Raymond, who applied for her job after seeing a flier which said New Haven wanted female officers.
According to Penny Harrington, the director of the Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Center for Women and Policing in Los Angeles, recruiting female officers not only helps women, but the communities which the departments serve. “Citizens’ complaints go down because women tend to be better communicators,” she said. “They try to solve problems rather than make an arrest and go away.”