Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
John S. Burdick, Professor and Chair, Anthropology
John Western, Professor, Geography
Arts and Science
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Anthropology | Other Anthropology | Social and Cultural Anthropology
In an ethnographic analysis, I seek to answer the question: how, if at all, does gender interact with police work? Using the women of the Syracuse Police Department (SPD) as the defined population for my study, I conducted 4 in-depth ethnographic interviews along with 5 sessions of participant observation, accompanying female officers during their shifts for anywhere from 4-8 hours at a time. Historically, women’s presence in law enforcement has been almost nonexistent, particularly in police work which is overwhelmingly perceived as the domain of men. Women in police work have made some progress parallel to social progress over time, but have stagnated at a national average of only 12%. My research identifies key aspects of officers’ careers that are affected by or interact with their gender in specific ways, demonstrating why police work continues to be a difficult field for women to enter and how they navigate their gender once there. The first aspect is the way that gender interacts with the often immovable structure of a paramilitary organization and the adaptation of gender identity that women perform in order to function within it. The second aspect is how women perform their duties as officers in ways that highlight the strengths they associate with their gender and employ a different style of policing. The third and final aspect is how women form relationships on the force, both with male and female officers, and how they use these to manage their work within the police environment. Overall, policewomen are valuable assets to any force because they bring different perspectives to their work, but also must constantly adjust their gender identities and perceptions to the constraints of a highly structured, male-dominated environment.
Ierardo, Rebecca, "Pedicures in Combat Boots: Navigating Gender in the Syracuse Police Department, An Ethnographic Analysis" (2014). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 811.
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