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Women on patrol: an analysis of differences in officer arrest behavior

Kenneth J. Novak (Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, University of Missouri‐Kansas City, Kansas City, Missouri, USA)
Robert A. Brown (Department of Criminal Justice, Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA)
James Frank (School of Criminal Justice, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 8 November 2011




The current research seeks to examine whether officer gender influences the decision to arrest, and whether correlates of officer decision making vary across gender.


Data on police‐public encounters were systematically collected by performing social observations of police officers. Multivariate models were estimated to examine the correlates of arrest for all encounters, encounters involving male officers, and encounters involving female officers. Results were compared and contrasted across officer gender.


Gender has little direct impact on the arrest decision; however, some variation exists depending on citizens' race, gender and demeanor. The most noteworthy differences were observed based upon whether officer actions are conducted in the presence of other members of the organization, and where these other members are in the organizational hierarchy. Female officers were significantly more likely to arrest when observed by supervisors, yet less likely to arrest in the presence of peers. The visibility to other organizational members conditions the decision to arrest differently for female officers.

Research limitations/implications

The current research is limited to examining only the decision to arrest. Other discretionary choices made during police‐public encounters are not explored.

Practical implications

Results have implications for the examination of how social control is exercised across gender, and has implications for how organizations evaluate officer performance.


This research expands the understanding of the influence of officer gender on arrest decision.



Novak, K.J., Brown, R.A. and Frank, J. (2011), "Women on patrol: an analysis of differences in officer arrest behavior", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 34 No. 4, pp. 566-587.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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