Date of Award

Fall 12-2020

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Political Science


Political Science

Major Professor

Christine Lucille Day

Second Advisor

Steven William Mumford

Third Advisor

John J. Kiefer


Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) statistics from 2013 revealed that of about 477,000 sworn law enforcement officers at the local level in the United States, only 12% are women; and only 6.2% of those who hold intermediate-level rank are women (U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Local Police Department, 2013: Personnel, Policies, and Practices, 2015). Although legal mandates have afforded women career opportunities in law enforcement, those mandates have not provided protection within the structures of law enforcement agencies regarding achieving high ranking positions. Women are more likely than men to remain in lower-ranking positions throughout their entire careers because they are less likely to be considered for higher ranking command positions. This research explores promotion rates of women employed by police departments, which are typically headed by appointed heads of agencies, and sheriffs’ offices, which are typically headed by elected heads of agencies, in order to determine the similarities or differences regarding rates of promotion of female law enforcement officers as a function of the agency head (elected or appointed). As expected, I find that sheriffs’ offices are less likely to promote women to executive-level positions than are police departments, but surprisingly, sheriffs’ offices promote slightly more women at lower levels of rank. I also examined other variables that may affect the proportion of ranking officers who are women and the findings show that agencies with education-based incentives, higher population (in the agency’s jurisdiction), and agencies in the South are more likely to promote women at lower levels of rank but less likely to promote women at higher levels of rank.


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