Houston’s Police Department is the nation’s fifth largest but ranks much lower when it comes to the percentage of women wearing the badge, says the Houston Chronicle. Of the 14 police departments with at least 2,000 officers, Houston ranked 12th in the percentage of female officers, according to U.S. Justice Department figures from 2003. Police Chief Harold Hurtt is working to hire more female officers. Some analysts say the figures reflect a male-oriented culture that still dominates most police forces. “I don’t know what they’ve done in Houston, but I suspect they could increase their numbers if they went to the extra effort,” said Mary Ann Viverette, first vice president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
The issue of women in police work, and how they are viewed by their male colleagues, has come under scrutiny as a female sergeant’s sexual harassment lawsuit has been tried in a Houston federal court. In 10 days of testimony, witnesses have depicted a working environment in which female officers who try to fill certain roles are met with hostility. Houston’s percentage of female sworn officers has decreased slightly from the 12.86 percent two years ago to 12.8 percent. The numbers are close to the national average, said Viverette. At the top of the list is Detroit, with women making up 26 percent of its police force. Margaret Moore of the National Center for Women & Policing said that, “After 30 years, the representation of women remains critically low. It’s the culture. It seems resistant to change.”