The glass ceiling that used to prevent women police officers from advancing to the executive law enforcement level is slowly cracking. The trend reflects not only societal changes, but also shifts in the way women view careers at the higher levels of police work.
For Sylvia Aguilar, becoming the assistant deputy chief of the El Paso Police Department’s Major Crimes Division meant 24 years of moving up through the ranks.
Aguilar is part of a growing number of women police executives who now make up about 17-percent of command staff ranks in departments across the county. “Things have changed in the past 20 years. There’s more women in the field, there’s more executive women. Not as many as I would like to see and perhaps that is coming in the future, but the attitudes have changed.”
When Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt first began in law enforcement, woman police executives were unheard of in what had been a traditionally male-dominated profession. Now, Hurtt has seven women in his immediate command staff, including one exectutive assistant chief.
Female police exectives from all over the country are in Houston this weekend for the annual National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives Conference. Susan Kyzer is the organization’s president.
Kyzer says more and more women now realize there are advancement possibilities within law enforcement. Detroit, Boston, San Francisco and Milwaukee all have female police chief’s or commissioners.