When Irma Lozada became the first female New York City police officer shot to death on duty in 1984, some fellow officers said that women would be better off reassigned to office jobs. When another female officer, Miosotis Familia, was shot and killed last week, her gender was far less a focus than were the nondiscriminatory perils of her profession, the New York Times reports. There are 6,394 female officers on a force of 36,000 in New York City. Across the nation, women have pushed their way into policing’s most demanding jobs. To them, Familia’s death was seen as a grim signifier of their growing front-line roles.
“All of us suffer that same risk, man and woman,” said Baltimore police commander Sheree Briscoe. “That’s what’s happening in the culture of policing.” Some female officers describe still having to prove to male colleagues that they are bold enough for the job. Many officers, they say, still view sensitivity as a sign of weakness. While some cities have appointed female chiefs to steer their departments away from problems with overaggressive policing, some women say proposing reforms opens them up to stereotypical accusations. “If I show emotion, I’m weak,” said Janeé Harteau, the first female police chief in Minneapolis, who has been leading the force since 2012. “If I talk about de-escalation, 21st-century policing, I’m soft on crime and we need a guy to come in and fix it all. It surprises me that these conversations continue to occur.” She said female officers tend to receive significantly fewer use of force complaints.