women in federal law enforcement

Implementing Policing in the 21st Century

In conjunction with NAWLEE (National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives), IACP, NOBLE, and HAPCOA, WIFLE has begun working on an outline for implementing Policing in the 21st Century.

At the request of the Policy Office of the White House, our focus is creating culture change in law enforcement, increasing diversity throughout the profession, and enhancing the way law enforcement responds to victims in cases of sexual assault, trafficking, and domestic violence. This project stems from the 21st Century Policing Task Force report released earlier this year.

If you have not read the report, you should try to familiarize yourself with it, as many law enforcement agencies are acting to implement the recommendations. These changes will touch on every aspect of your career.  The changes are intended for all law enforcement agencies, not just state and local agencies.  The report not only speaks to moving from the warrior culture we are today back to the guardian culture we once were, to ensuring law enforcement is seen as legitimate by our communities through employing procedural justice, to creating greater diversity, enhancing the health and safety of law enforcement officers and changing how leaders manage their agencies. 

Over the past several decades, law enforcement has slowly become more militaristic in our approach to reducing crime to make our communities safer. Often times at the expense of our reputations as fair and impartial officers worthy of the communities’ trust.  In our efforts to achieve our law enforcement goals, we may not always take into account the people we serve. Research indicates that while law enforcement measure successes on the number of arrests, convictions, and the reduction of crime, the public is more interested in being heard, being listened too and treated fairly. They want police officers to make decisions based on the facts and not on their personal opinions or biases. They want to be treated with dignity and respect. This is where the concept of Procedural Justice comes into play. The research shows that when the public feels that law enforcement does these things they willingly defer to authority and take on the responsibility of obeying the law. 

I know many will shake their heads, but the task force recommends agencies ensure we not only incorporate the concept of Procedural Justice in how we police, but also incorporate it into the internal culture of all agencies. How can we expect law enforcement officers to treat the public with respect when they are disrespected and experience disparate treatment in promotions, disciplinary actions, and policies and procedures that do not keep pace with society in general?

Research shows that law enforcement officer’s greatest stressors do not come from the public.  The greatest stress comes from the people for whom we work. Our supervisors, our managers, and our leaders, create our greatest stressors leading to health problems and even shortened life spans. Research shows that law enforcement personnel want to be treated with the same idea of fairness and impartiality as the public.  What would your agency be like if procedural justice were part of your agency’s culture?  Recruitment, retention, training, employee development, performance evaluations and awards would all change.  Now that would be something to see.


Women in Federal Law Enforcement Inc. (www.wifle.org) is a 501(c)(6) tax-exempt organization chartered in June 1999 as an outgrowth of an interagency committee sponsored by the U.S. Departments of Justice and Treasury. The WIFLE Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, was incorporated in March 2006. Both organizations work to promote the value that women bring to the law enforcement profession and address the reasons why women remain underrepresented in sworn law enforcement positions.

The WIFLE organizations advocate the recruitment, retention and promotion of women in federal law enforcement occupations as a means to enhance the efficacy of law enforcement operations.

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