International Women’s Day – Women in Policing

08 March 2016

women in policing

The role of women in the police service has evolved enormously in the last 100 years. Margaret Damer Dawson and Nina Boyle founded the Women Police Service in 1914. A year later, the first female officer was given the power to arrest, but up until 1946 women had to resign from the police service when they got married...

In honour of International Women’s Day and all that women bring to the police force, here is a timeline of some of the key dates for women in policing during the last 101 years:

•    The 1916 Police Act made it possible for women to be appointed as women constables although the Home Office policy was that they should not be sworn in.
•    In 1919, the first 25 female officers appeared on the streets of London. They were required to patrol in pairs, followed at a distance by two male officers who were to come to their aid when required. It was quickly recognised that female officers were often better able to deal with cases involving women and girls than male officers.
•    The first course training police women was established at Bristol Training School in 1921.
•    Home Secretary Sir Edward Shortt wanted to abolish the women’s section in the Metropolitan Police in 1922. Shortt insisted their work was ‘welfare work’, rousing some MPs to fury and ending with the force keeping 24 female constables.
•    In 1930, the Home Office raised the issue of women police officers with the Police Council who didn’t show much interest. The Home Secretary nevertheless laid down regulations to standardise their pay and conditions.
•    There were 175 female police officers in England and Wales in 1936.
•    By 1937, women were allowed to take fingerprints.
•    By the end of the war in 1945, the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps had 3,700 members and there were over 400 regular police women.
•    In 1950, the first female British Transport Police sergeants were appointed.
•    In 1969, Sislin Fay Allen became the first black female officer at the Metropolitan Police.
•    Up until the mid-1970s, occupational segregation was legal, with female officers having a separate rank structure within their own departments, often located in a separate part of the building from the male officers.
•    Women were allowed to handle dogs from 1971 (previous rules stated dog handlers needed a wife to look after the puppy while they were at work).
•    In 1974, female officers got pay parity with their male equivalents.
•    Alison Halford applied for the post of Assistant Chief Constable on Merseyside in 1983 and became the highest ranking police woman in the country.
•    In 1984, WPC Yvonne Fletcher was mortally wounded in St James Square. Her murder led to the creation of the Police Memorial Trust.
•    1985 saw the first female firearms officer.
•    British Association of Women Police (BAWP) was formed in 1987.
•    By 1994, 22% of police constable applicants were female.
•    Pauline Clare was appointed Chief Constable for Lancashire in 1995, the first woman to hold this senior rank.
•    By 2000 there were over 20,000 female police officers in England and Wales.
•    In 2014, 35,653 of police officers in England and Wales were women.
•    2015 – Celebrating 100 years of Women in Policing