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Historical Perspectives Of African American Women In Law Enforcement


The state of Georgia continues to improve in law enforcement area especially employment of women. Just like other states of America, the agencies have been faced with unfair employment practices targeting the people of color and minority. The state has now over 9,000 police officers from different races operating in law enforcement jobs. Since 19th century, African American women (AAW) sort a variety of professions within the field of law enforcement. The need to be productive facilitated their urge to be part of a social solution. However, AAW remained highly marginalized and considered unfit to represent in law enforcement jobs considered to belong to men. In 1845, female police matrons were hired and were to help address the issues affecting women and children. Cora Parchment was the first AAW in NYPD in 1919 and this paved the way for the entry of black women in law enforcement jobs. During this period, African American women were regarded as objects of policing due to racial segregation practices. A hindrance factor in attainment of job and their subsequent promotion was due to the racial conflict and oppression directed towards African American women. Women of color served in a racist slave society and implicitly accepted the oppression of African Americans in order to carry out their duties just like the African American men. The paradox of policing now was that, the color of a person’s skin determine innocence or guilt hence this facilitated their fight and need to improve their own precarious position in the society. Many police departments in Georgia and major law enforcement agencies did not hire non-Whites due to political affiliations. The fear for the agencies of blacks protecting their own regardless of the crimes committed was a hindrance factor in their recruitment. Most black police considered that the crimes committed by blacks were because of racial discriminations and white dominance. Promotions were never provided for the blacks in law enforcement agencies and job assignments were done on race and gender bias, which was entirely discriminating against African American women. Opportunities for advancement were not available and the experiences of the few who were employed were entirely inhuman. Advancement of African American women in Georgia was hindered by both law enforcement agencies and society. The culture demanded that black women remain in the feminine jobs and not compete with policing work, which was considered violent and having political standing. Law enforcement agencies considered African American women as minority and not fit to be part of the white man’s job. Caucasian considered African American women to lack the professional requirements for the job since most were uneducated. Personal issues proved devastating for this career since majority of African American women were not supported by their families. Since those who wished to join the agencies were adults and mostly married, AAW encountered much of family problems. Policing requires changing shifts and reporting to work when required and this meant spending most of the time away from the family and children. Adequate children care is demanded by the family and these women could not provide it and at the same timework effectively in law enforcement agencies.

Total integration of African American women into law enforcement agencies in the state of Georgia has been made with difficulties. Those employed at this time during the transitional stage from the male-dominated occupational area felt the greatest impact especially where such positions were specifically set for the white officers. Acceptance of African American women was in the area of female offenders and children but were met with reluctance and considered to have passed the threshold in seeking patrol and investigative services. Underrepresentation was also inculcated by traditional values conflicting and competing African American women in attempting to assume the new position. Most depressing is that African American women’s roles were not recognized and given importance because promotions and rewards were provided to the male counterparts.

Over decades, there has been an increase in recruitment barrier for women in law enforcement positions; however, the number of women has been insufficient concerning racial minority. Most AAW have been uninterested in applying for these jobs due to discriminatory practices directed towards them and the subsequent perception developed over the year by law enforcement agencies. Cultural expectations of women often conflict with the ideas about the proper behavior of police officers and this made AAW concentrate at the lower level of the hierarchy in law enforcement if selected for the jobs. However, currently, with the increase in education and awareness programs, many lawsuits have helped open promotional opportunities for AAW in Georgia hence enabling women obtain supervisory jobs. In past decades, assigning women as partners in patrol was highly rejected by male because African American women were considered unable to provide the required physical support in case of danger. The fight for AAW in law enforcement jobs has helped lift discriminatory practices and eliminate the issue of racism. Selection of law enforcers has shifted from gender and race but towards a more informed diverse process where recognition and acceptance of every individual as equal.

Just like the white counterparts in Georgia, African American females continued to be employed as matrons, social workers and school crossing guards in police agencies. The black political empowerment and the quest to represent bureaucracy have been a major contributor to AAW increasing employment in better positions as officers, middle managers and chief executives. Since the formation of police departments and law enforcement agencies, policing has been considered as a man’s work due to the physical strength needed to deal with the dangers exposed to work. This prevailed in the public minds and in police force. The resultant effect was provision of constant pressure on women police officers to demonstrate their competence in dealing with law enforcement work and the effectiveness required as the male counterparts do. The situation was aggravated by sexual harassment from the male officers because during this century, laws protecting women from such practices were very in effective (Rice, 2010). Several barriers were placed initially upon AAW to join law enforcement agencies. In 1916, Georgia Ann Robinson was the first AAW to be sworn in as a police officer that passed the overwhelming screening; however, Georgia was provided with no training or payment and no uniform was assigned. Other African American women following Georgia had to be 30 to 44 years of age, married and most important, with children and had to have a college degree. The most discouraging factor was that these barriers imposed were even much higher than expected from a police officer at that time. It entirely locked out AAW in such posts and perpetuated their problems in securing a beneficial job for themselves.

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