More women are heading police agencies, but among the nation’s 50 largest departments, only five are led by women, reports the Associated Press. A 2013 survey by the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives found 169 women leading 1,500 police agencies that responded. One of the new ones is Anne Kirkpatrick in Oakland, who inherited an agency that the city’s mayor likened to a frat house. Female police officers tend to use wits over brawn to deescalate potentially violent situations, experts say, and as departments shift their focus to nonviolent techniques, it’s natural they would tap more women as leaders.
“A lot of police chiefs say women had a profound impact on the culture of policing,” said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum. “They bring their own set of skills to a traditionally male-dominated culture, and that is very helpful.” Dawn Layman, president of the women’s law enforcement group and a major in the Lenexa, Ks., Police Department, says, “There are still a lot of agencies that you see there are no females in even supervisory or command-level positions” As major cities continue to promote women to their top cop posts, she believes others will follow suit. The first generation of female chiefs was in smaller police forces, said Dorothy Moses Schulz, a professor emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The public expects many women to be able to reform departments with poor public images just because they’re female, she said.