POLICING IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE: Comparing Firsthand Knowledge with Experience from the West,
© 1996 College of Police and Security Studies, Slovenia


Anita Hazenberg

'Equal opportunities policy within the European police services'


In some European countries the first women joined the police before World War 1. It was not before the late eighties however, that in a number of Western European countries more specific attention was paid to the issue: `women within the police'. Sometimes in a positive way, but frequently in a negative way. Research 2 shows that there are not many women within the police, and that policewomen often have to deal with a macho culture concerning sexual harassment and unhealthy mutual working relations. In Eastern and Central European countries a change is also noticeable and discussions have started (again) wether women can actually perform operational duties. In more and more countries policewomen criticise openly the existing discrimination when it comes to career prospects. Often this criticism does not create more than a brief cloud of dust. The - mainly male - managers react somewhat shocked to the `incident', label it easily as a personal problem but don't change their policy in accordance.

The policy of the police services in Europe is made by man. Men make a dominant group. Women are by far a minority. The percentage of women in operational work in Europe in 1996 varies from 1.9% to 16% (Beek & Hazenberg 1996). There are practically no women taking part in the governing and managing bodies. Women within the European police services find themselves mainly in the lowest, supporting, operational ranks and positions.

Looking at these small numbers, it seems that the issue of equality and gender' 3 is not seriously taken into consideration by the policy-making officials within the police services.

Taking stock of the above, in this lecture we will go into the importance of gender balance within the police. The next subject will be what mechanisms are of importance when people constitute a minority within an organization. An active, innovative policy is needed to break through the minority position of women. We will go into the dimensions this policy has to take into consideration and the phases of policymaking that are evident. Finally the question of who is responsable for policymaking will be answered.


The question wether women should or should not be part of the police needs no discussi- on. International treaties 4 do not allow long debates en stress the point that there should be no differentiation by authorities to take on women in governmental jobs. One should not even create the impression of discrimination and an active policy must be pursued to eliminate the current arrears of women.

Apart from the anti-discrimination principle the police should consist of men and women om the basis of quality. It simply is a necessity to have women within the police. After all, the police will always have to deal with the preservation of legal order, if necessary by force, but also with the aid of victims of accidents and crime. This duality of duties can be characterized as masculine and feminine. The more the organization becomes a reflection of society, the more confidence it will get from the general public. The quality of policework will also improve with women in force in all ranks and positions. Women have a number of physiological aspects (Durkin) that are of advantage to them. Their greater power of observation and perceptive faculties are vital for police work. They have a feeling and an eye for details. Furthermore they have the ability to visualize the abstract; an essential skill, particularly for managers.

In addition, women have greater linguistic skills than men. Therefore, confrontations with the public can be solved with less violence (Bloch and Anderson: 1974). The entry of women into managerial positions may bring about a cultural change that contributes to a high-quality police organization, open and accessable to everyone.

Apart from these arguments on quality, there are also pragmatical ones. In more and more countries the labour market is ageing. By recruiting men and women, the police increases its chances of well-trained and able employees. By pursueing a personnel policy which makes the organization agreeable for women, one can prevent that women who joined the organization, leave the service and that valuable `human capital' is wasted.

1.3 'TOKENS'

The necessity to realize a gender balans within the European police service, is not enough recognized. The surplus value for the police product because of the presence of women in all sections of the organization is not sufficiently manifest in the current policy. To put it straight, the low number of women brings about various consequences that worsen rather than improve the situation of women. The American sociologist Rosabeth Moss Kanter (1977) states this with the help of the "token" theory. She calls people who constitute less than 15% of an organization `tokens'. To her, a token is somebody who is not considered as an individual, but as a representative of a certain group of people. Since women are outnumbered, policewomen are seen as representatives of the category women. Because of this, existing prejudices and stereotyped ideas about women in general, are being targeted on individual policewomen.

The woman is in a token-position and therefore specially noticeable. Unwished-for, she draws all attention. She also constitutes a contrast with men, as a result of which the differences between men and women are even more conspicuous. For a `token' woman it is very hard to be accepted in the man's world that surrounds her. Increased competitive spirit, stress, isolation, being shut out from the unofficial circuit and lack of support can be the result. Women can get ill as a result of being a "token" or leave, more or less worn out, the service. These negative effects will only disappear when women constitute more than 35% of the personnel.


Acting on the "token" theory one could draw the conclusion that it would be of great interest to this group of staff members when the number of women within the police were increased. Only then, their value would be fully shown to advantage. The realization of a gender balanced organization calls for an active policy.

Lammers (1993:25) states that the management of a company considers itself to be repre- sentative for the entire organization. Following this argumentation one would expect the management to enforce the equal opportunity policy top-down. The equal opportunity policy requires a broad-based approach. Marginal adjustments to legal position or terms of employment are not sufficient. Equal opportunity policy within the police is not enough seen and approached as a process of culture transformation at the moment. I am confirmed in this view by Mohebbi (1992:57) who describes the execution of equal opportunity policy as a paradoxical task. The fact is, this policy must be executed by the most dominant group in an organization. They are the ones that decided on the established organizational culture. To Hofstede (1991:224) organizational culture means `the collective mental programming that distinguishes members of one organization from those of another'. He states that culture is indeed considerd to be a soft quality in an organization, but that hard, structural and procedural measures must be taken by the top of an organization to change the culture. In my opinion more interest in change of culture is a "must" in order to achieve an effective equal opportunity policy.

In developping a new policy it is, apart from the interest in a culture-change, important to reckon with the various types of measures, necessary to prevent the equal opportunity policy to have a reverse effect that could result in an increase of the unequal situation that exists between men and women. Another important point of interest is that men and women should be able to share the responsibilities for work and care within the police. This asks for facilities to work part-time, crèches, shared jobs and the possibility for women to return to their job after having a family. Also steps should be taken to encourage entry and transference, horizontal (to specialist functions) as well as vertical (to managerial functions) and discourage wastage. The equal opportunity policy should get a firm shape within the organization. The management should take the responsibility, put up the finances, (let) formulate a policy plan, name specific actions and target figures, entrust a special officer with the proceedings, and regularly evaluate the inplementation of the policy.


The expression `policy' in this article has many discriptions and definitions. Apparently in practically every definition the words: objectives, means and time, are at the forefront. Also about the phases in which the policy is developped, many theories and models are developped. Vrakkig et al. (1996:9) describes the traditional policy cycle as follows:

  1. recognition and definition of the problem by the parties involved.
  2. finding of a solution for the problems and the creation of a basis.
  3. decision-making
  4. implementation and monitoring of policy.
  5. policy completion and evaluation.

Hazenberg (1996:10) distinguishes four phases in the policy development on equal oppor- tunities within the police, that is to say phases of silence, structure, development and integration. (Figure 1) The phases will be briefly described.

Figure 1


Phase of silence

At the centre of this first phase is the absence of any equal opportunity activities. Within the police force the matter of equality is hardly ever discussed. Possibly one thinks that because of the small number of women there is no necessety to have a separate policy. The thought that everybody is equal to the law and therefore gets automatically equal treatment, could be the obvious reason. The existing reality is simply being ignored. There is no policy development and no staff members are specifically put in charge of this matter. This does not mean that the first initiatives and/or activities, mostly taken by a small number of individuals, don't arouse a beginning of awareness. However, these activities are so occasional that they do not yet break the silence in order to get to the structural phase.

Structural phase

In the literature the structural phase is often indicated as `specific policy'. It means that in the existing policy of an organization hardly any special measures for women are taken. The measures that are taken, concern the revelation of the disadvantage of women. It is a matter of measures of an emancipatory quality. This however, is not structural nor connected, and there is hardly any coherency between the four essential dimensions in the policy.

Schaapman (1992:46) sees the setting up of a project group and/or advisory panel as an important way to involve various ranks of an organization in a certain theme. In this phase one often sees groups like that arise. They can play an important role in the definition of problems, as a result of which the policy development can get started. The department Personnel and Organization can do the pioneering work. The help of women in this phase is essential. By giving women support, assistance and limited financial means they can be expected to develop activities that should convince the management and the colleagues that changes in the present situation are necessary. In this phase equal opportunities is mainly a responsibility of women, not a problem for the organization. As a result, the "safer" issues like part-time work, child care facilities and adjustments to material facilities will get some attention. It is as yet too early for a fundamental and structural approach from the organization.

Development phase

In this phase (also referred to as facet phase), the main point is that the police service is convinced of the necessity of policy development. Problems are no longer ignored, but one actively tries to find solutions. This phase means that within an organization a start will be made to ad equality objectives to the various terrains of policy of that organization.

Attention for equality issues becomes part of the strategic policy of the personnel manage- ment. Communicative adjustments will see to it that local departments are informed. The policy in this phase is not ad hoc anymore and aimed at incidental improvements; the way to a structural and professional approach is prepared. The equal opportunity policy is still aimed towards specific objectives and/or issues and the measures are still no coherent whole. Equal opportunity policy is, in this phase, too often regarded as a separate policy that is no part of an integrated policy.

"To meet the basic principle of equal opportunity policy, it is necessary to develop and execute the facet policy", Swennen (1993:27) states. The author points out the necessity to put one officer in charge of emancipation in order to introduce new developments. Since equal opportunity policy runs with culture change, it is vital that the force management gives the" go ahead" and gives its approval to the direction in which the equal opportunities policy is going. For this purpose a general plan for equal opportunities policy would help (LPEC, 1994:9). This way the commitment of an organization top can be made manifest and the management acknowledges equal opportunities to be a policy terrain. The big risk in this phase however is that the management of a company thinks to have met all equality demands and that from central level certain activities can be restricted. This is absolutely not the case. According to De Graaff (1996:47) there will never be a complete integration of the equal opportunities policy. About 20% of the policy will consist of attention, and developments for the benefit of new subjects and/or new target groups.

Integration phase

Going through the phases of silence, structure and development must ultimately lead to a institutionalized, integrated equal opportunities policy by the various departments of an organization (in line as well as in staff divisions). Equality is not regarded anymore as a separate issue, that stands apart from the regular policy, but as a self-evident area for special attention which is incorporated in the stipulated policy. The equal opportunities policy measures are in harmony with each other through co-ordination and the policy measures to be taken are connected. Consolidation is the key word, because the equal opportunity policy is integrated in all policy fields.

Schaapman (1992:59) states: "To get the general policy and the sectorial differentiated policy in harmony, it is advisable to start top-level consultations that serve as think tank as well as co-ordinating centre." Special instruments have been developped in this stage and have been implemented in the various policy frameworks. The role of the policy-making equality officer shifts from developer to advisor. This policy advisor should also act as a watchdog, together with a committee, if there is one.

It is important that the cultural aspects get enough attention and that the results of the equal opportunities policy are being evaluated in a structural way. Crucial moments are implementation 5 and monitoring. Represented in diagram, the various phases look as follows (adapted to De Graaff, 1996:46). The diagram shows that the line of the process goes from silence, structure and development to integration.

Schedule 1



Finally, at the end of this paper the question arises who is responsible for the actual realization of the equal opportunities policy. First of all of course the management of the police service itself. It is of importance that line executives and supporting staff executives make an equal contribution. Should they not succeed in breaking the silence, the central authorities must come into action. After all, the legal framework, as laid down for equal opportunities was generally approved by them. The members of parliament are third in line. They supervise the central authorities. In addition, the unions play an important role. From the point of view of working conditions, legal position and the protection of individual interests they can actually see to it that specific agreements, by which the position of women improve, are being made.

We must emphasize the fact that policewomen themselves are not responsible for the development of the equal opportunity policy. All this shows that, due to their minority position, women have to meet stringent requirements. Women can however play a role as observer and/or supporter. Schaapman (1992:18) says: "especially women should be involved in change processes, as they can be expected to be experts in equality matters".6 It is however important for women not to act as individuals but to be aware of the fact that they are represented on a broader level. Networks 7 for policewomen are the proper bodies for that. Women who join a network can get emotional support, advice, information and role-patterns, missing matters in the practice of most women.

During a recent research in the Netherlands (Hazenberg, 1996: 73) it turned out that the influence of networks is essential in the starting phase of policy development. Networks see to it that problems of women are lifted from an individual to a collective level. Because of this the subject can be brought to the attention of decision-makers in an organization. This attention contributes to the determination of a plan of action, and to the recognition and definition of the problem. Furthermore the networks have proved to play a substantial role in regard to the execution and monitoring of the policy.


In this lecture the necessity of a proportional representation of men and women within the police has been explained. A gender balance is a necessity for a high-quality police organisation. In order to achieve this it is vital to pursue and implement an active policy to have more women join the police, and to keep the ones who have already joined the organization. This is not the resposibility of women. Now it is up to the (mostly male) managers to form this policy. Only then, the "silence" phase of the policy developping cycle can be broken, and only than it will be possible to set out for the achievement of a police organization in which "quality trough equality" has come true.


  1. The article "Tenminste kwart van politiekorps moet vrouw zijn" (At least one quarter of the police service should consist of women) by Mrs. N. Feenstra, which hasn't been published before, is incorporated in this publication. I am very grateful for her cooperation.
  2. The following surveys may be mentioned: Anderson et al. (1991) 'Aspects of sex discri- mination within the police service in England and Wales', Eikenaar (1993) '"Dat hoort er nu eenmaal bij..."' (It is all part of the job...), the nature and extent of undesirable behaviour in the Dutch police, and Bloeyaart (1994) 'Vrouwen bij de Belgische politiediensten, functioneren en functioneringsproblemen' (Women within the Belgian police services, work and the problems of work).
  3. The term `gender' (Verloo and Roggeband, 1994:7) emphasizes the fact that masculinity and femininity aren't innate but social qualities, and that the difference between men and women is to be considered a social construction.
  4. One could mention: `Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), European Convention on Human Rights (1950), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979) and the Equal pay and Equal treatment Directives of the European Union (1975 & 1976).
  5. Implementation means: `introduction (in a narrow sense), this means the preparation for the practice of a fixed policy. And practice means the performance of all actions, oulined in this policy in order to realize the objectives'. (Schaapman, 1992:39)
  6. Expertise in the field of equal opportunities policy means according to Langeveld: assert the perspective of women. It is stated that men don't take the application of this perspective for granted, because they almost automatically take the `unequal' relations and patterns as a starting point (Schaapman, 1992:18)
  7. Berkelaar (1991:22) describes a network as a `pattern of relations set up by organizations and/or individuals as a result of a situation of independence'.

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