Local News

More Women Break Glass Ceiling To Become Police Officers

Posted November 24, 2003 4:28 a.m. EST

— More women are making law enforcement a career. With 66 females on the force, currently 12 percent of Raleigh police officers are women. The national average is about 15 percent. Raleigh is actively trying to recruit more women to bring their numbers up.

Sgt. Paula O'Neal is not only the first woman on the Selective Enforcement Unit, but she is in charge of a modern-day SWAT team.

"As a female, realistically I'm not going to be able to do some of the things men can do pound for pound, but there again, you have to compensate in other ways," she said.

Sgt. Judy Sholar is one of a handful of female firearms trainers in the state. She teaches Raleigh police officers how to shoot.

"Police officers have not always accepted females into this profession," she said. "The more we're involved in all aspects of police work, the better role models we are, and we're more able to recruit more female police officers to come into this job market, which I think is a good thing."

Capt. Cassandra Deck-Brown is one of many firsts. She is the first woman to run a Raleigh police district and the first black female to become a captain.

"I am in a position to serve as an example to other women, but I do recognize there are women before me who have obviously paved the way for me to get where I am," Deck-Brown said.

"I try to do that with our female officers -- to put them in positions that challenge them," said Raleigh Police Chief Jane Perlov, who is the city's first female police chief.

"It's quickly and steadily becoming more of an option for women than it used to be. It's much more acceptable," she said. "It's not considered such a wild occupation for a woman to go into any longer. It's considered a really good career choice now."

When Perlov started in law enforcement in 1981, there were few women in blue, but now that is changing and she said she is leading the way.

"Our priorities are to recruit for diversity, racial, ethnic and gender [to] closely match the city of Raleigh, so there's a big push on to recruit women," she said.

Deck-Brown said she has earned the respect of her male colleagues and been rewarded with their support.

"Nothing has been given to us. We have had to compete for the same positions as our male cohorts," she said.

Deck-Brown said the rewards also come from the community.

"It sends a huge message to the little girls that we see out and about and shake our hand because they know we're in leadership positions," she said. "That's our future."

The first woman with full police powers was hired by the Los Angeles Police Department in 1910. A recent nationwide survey shows nine out of 10 female police officers are detectives. Only one percent is a lieutenant or higher.