Breaking the Brass Ceiling: Women Police Chiefs and Their Paths to the Top

Breaking the Brass Ceiling: Women Police Chiefs and Their Paths to the Top

Breaking the Brass Ceiling: Women Police Chiefs and Their Paths to the Top

Breaking the Brass Ceiling: Women Police Chiefs and Their Paths to the Top

Synopsis

Constituting fewer than 15% of the nation's police officers, women have found it especially difficult to rise through the ranks and achieve higher posts. Here, those few women who have made it to the top--about 1% of the chiefs and sheriffs in American policing--share their stories and describe the challenges they faced as they rose to their positions. Each of the chiefs competed for their offices with other candidates, almost always male. The sheriffs--virtually all elected officials--faced other challenges and came under even closer scrutiny. While few in number, these "top cops" illustrate the emergence of women as more than token leaders of American sheriff and police departments. They are unique groundbreakers who have managed to breach the brass ceiling.

Excerpt

This book really began in 1979, although I didn't know it. I was a captain in the Conrail Police Department, and I was taking courses that would ultimately result in my receiving a doctorate in American Studies from New York University in 1992. Yes, it took a long time, but that's another story for another book! Through a series of events, I delivered a paper on women in police supervisory ranks at the American Society of Criminology meeting in Philadelphia. The panel was concerned with a number of policing issues, and I was one of the few people there who was actively involved in policing and who did not yet possess a Ph.D. There was quite a bit of interest in my findings about what was then a very small number of women police supervisors, but this did not come close to matching the interest in me personally. It was obvious that most of the people I chatted with had never met a woman police manager—in fact, many had never met a woman police officer.

My career took many turns. By the time I was seriously considering a dissertation topic, the Conrail Police Department had been ordered by federal government mandate to divest itself of all but freight operations, and my colleagues and I who worked in New York City became part of a new agency, the Metro-North Commuter Railroad Police Department (subsequently renamed the MTA Police Department). In addition to my academic pursuits, I became active in the International Association of Women Police (IAWP), where I met many women like myself, who joined policing on an equal basis with our male colleagues. There were also many women who had started their careers as policewomen, with a completely different set of entry requirements and job descriptions, who were thrust

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