Female San Francisco Police Department officers continue to suffer from gender inequalities within the department, and many of them are relegated to desk jobs, despite research indicating that women are “better able to neutralize escalating situations, and less likely to use excessive force than men” in the field.
That’s according to a report released Monday by the city’s Department on the Status of Women. It sought to analyze barriers to and opportunities for advancement in a police department with roughly 2,300 officers, 15 percent of whom are women.
“Sworn women felt they had to prove themselves again and again to be taken seriously and afforded the same opportunities as sworn men,” concluded the study, which drew on interviews and focus groups with female officers, as well as department data.
Although the report found that women were promoted at a slightly higher rate than men — 14 percent of female officers received promotions vs. 9 percent of male officers — women were more likely to receive administrative and investigative assignments. By contrast, men dominated patrol and special assignments in, for example, the motorbike, gang task force and K-9 units.
Female officers “reported that where women work in the SFPD often aligned with gender stereotypes and attitudes that women belong behind a desk rather than on the street,” the report says.
Furthermore, the 13 percent of women assigned to patrol units at district stations like the Mission, Tenderloin, and Central police stations, still felt as though they were more likely to be given administrative roles, instead of actually patrolling the street, the report found.
Other female officers, meanwhile, felt that getting positions in specialized units was “nearly impossible.”
Patrol and specialized unit assignments are important for every officer, according to the report: These assignments are “where acts of bravery are more commonly called for, resulting in recognition in the form of awards and commendations.”
So it’s no surprise that these numbers are skewed as well. From 2015 to 2017, one in 10 commendations and awards went to women, according to the report. No women in those years received the highest levels of awards — gold and silver medals of valor. And the female officers who did receive the awards were mostly white.
Moreover, white women held seven of the nine high-ranking positions held by female officers, while the other two were held by black women.
There were also issues with training. Women, who on average comprise 17 percent of applicants, are also graduating from the academy at lower rates than men: From 2012 to 2018, 73 percent of women graduated compared to 83 percent of men. In spite of this, the women who did graduate from the academy completed their field training at higher rates than their male counterparts — with 82 percent of women passing, compared to 70 percent of men.
Overall, the report says, female officers “expressed frustration at perceived double standards when it came to expectations of sworn women compared to men.”
The report recommended that the SFPD make a better effort at hiring more women, guiding female officers toward promotions, promoting more equity in assignments and training, among others.
The report’s conclusion: “Eliminating gender bias and stereotypes in the SFPD can also have broader impacts from increasing the recruitment of diverse candidates to an improved response to violence against women and reducing incidents of excessive force.”
In a statement, Chief Bill Scott expressed the desire to improve, saying, “Sworn women are a valuable and essential part of the San Francisco Police Department and I am committed to addressing their concerns regarding diversity and equity.”