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Women in Small & Rural Police Agencies

The Justice and Safety Center, in cooperation with the National Center for Women and Policing, conducted survey research in consecutive years beginning in 2000 to determine the status of women in small and rural law enforcement agencies. For this study, small/rural police agencies are defined as those county and municipal agencies located in a county with a population of less than 50,000 and with fewer than 100 sworn personnel.  

While women represented 13% of sworn personnel in larger law enforcement organizations, they held only 7.1% of the sworn positions in small and rural agencies, and had virtually no representation in policy-making positions, accounting for only 4% of all top command.

When combined with the NCWP survey on The Status of Women in Policing in larger police organizations, these data provide a rare glimpse into the status of women in law enforcement nationwide. The combined data reveal that overall women represented 10.9% of sworn law enforcement nationwide, in both large and small police agencies. This is particularly striking given that women constitute 46.5% of the labor force over age 16. The under-representation of women–particularly in top command positions–profoundly limits the quality of policing that is seen in smaller and more rural agencies across the country. Intensified effort is required to recruit and retain a diverse population of law enforcement officers to better represent and serve these communities.

Download The Status of Women in Small & Rural Police Agencies, 2000. Project reports are also available on the National Center for Women and Policing website:

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