The culture of policing oftentimes equates police competency with masculinity, valorizing physicality and bravery, but at the expense of other characteristics included in policework such as service and protection. The introduction of more female officers into police services leads the question as to how their increased representation (de)constructs traditional masculinist attitudes and affects gender inclusive policy and actions of a police service, encompassing police response to cases of domestic and sexual violence. This study investigates whether higher gender equity in a police service increases gender inclusive policy and actions by the police and whether this factor, in turn, increases public perceptions of legitimacy of the police. Legitimacy is measured through frequency of citizen participation with the police, perceptions of police neutrality (e.g. fairness), feelings of respect, and levels of trust in the police. This study employs a comparative approach to measure these variables in democratic countries with similar political cultures, using the United Kingdom and Canada as case studies. Findings from this study demonstrate a complex relationship between these variables, but evidence suggests a correlation between increases in gender equity, gender inclusive policy and actions, and public perceptions of legitimacy. Within the United Kingdom, gender equity of the police increased in both entry-level and leadership positions. Gender inclusive policy and actions also increased as rates of reporting of sexual and domestic violence increased over time, and more specialized resources were allocated for these cases. Interestingly, the United Kingdom also has a significantly less militarized police service. Canada lagged in both variables: gender equity has stagnated in recent years and there has been little noticeable improvement in gender inclusive policy and actions. However, both countries continue to face a problem of attrition, where cases of sexual violence are dropped before reaching court. Additionally, women in both Canada and the United Kingdom reported to have higher perceptions that the police ‘did a good job’ compared to men. Future research should investigate the relationship between victims of violence and perceptions of the police, to determine whether male victims of gendered crimes are less likely to believe that the police did an effective job at handling their case. Key recommendations to increase these factors in police services include standardizing accountability and recording measures across police departments to more effectively monitor progress. Police services can also coordinate with national police advocacy groups for women to ensure they have proper resources to reduce rates of sexual harassment as well as rates of leave for female officers.
Huffman, Sarah, "Masculinity (De)construction and Policing: A Comparative Study of Representation, Policies, and Legitimacy" (2018). Senior Independent Study Theses. Paper 8230.
Gender, Policing, Representation, Legitimacy, Sexual Violence, Domestic Violence
Bachelor of Arts
Senior Independent Study Thesis Exemplar
© Copyright 2018 Sarah Huffman