I’ve been training female police officers for well over twenty years now, and I frequently get asked what makes some women successful while others seem to struggle, flounder, or even fail in this profession. I usually offer a couple of brief, unscientific opinions, but I recently decided to give the topic some thoughtful consideration. I am privileged to meet thousands of women each year and they’ve taught me a thing or two about what true “success” is. While these women are often very different from each other, they all seem to share some general traits, so here are my personal observations.
They are committed. Successful women are in this job for the long haul, they are committed not only to the profession, but to their co-workers, their community and their mission. They genuinely care about the work they do and the people they serve. They stay mentally focused and tactically sound. Women who are successful in this profession know that know that police work is a career, and they take their responsibilities seriously.
They are fit. Being in good shape doesn’t mean you have to look like Giselle or Jillian Michaels; far from it. Fitness means that you are strong, that you can stay in the fight; it means you have endurance and confidence and aren’t afraid to push yourself. Being fit means you can perform at your peak, that you understand your body and do everything you can to treat it well and fuel it properly because you know that your life, or someone else’s, may depend on it.
They are informed. Successful women cops keep up with current case law, policy updates and new technology. They study crime trends, societal changes, and the culture of their community. They understand that national and international events often have local consequences. They know what kills us and what helps us survive, physically and emotionally, and they share that knowledge with others.
They laugh There can be so much darkness, sadness and frustration in this profession. As we say in the Street Survival seminar “nobody calls 911 when they’re having a good day.” Generally speaking, when the cops show up, something has gone wrong for somebody or its about to. Successful women know that sometimes you have to have a little fun. They don’t take themselves too seriously and they aren’t easily offended. They are quick to smile and slow to anger. They work hard at being upbeat and positive and they influence others to do the same.
They live with no regrets. Successful women don’t obsess about the past or what “might have been.” They don’t waste time and energy re-living negative events. They take responsibility for their mistakes and they enjoy their achievements. They understand and accept that life, especially life with a gun and a badge, rarely goes as planned. They are not envious, and they are not victims. Successful women learn from past disappointments and then let them go and move forward.
They are balanced. Successful women know that not only is there life after police work, there is life during it as well. They make sure to have multiples roles in their lives, they have hobbies and interests outside of law enforcement. They have non-police friends and they maintain relationships outside of the station. They know that they have a duty to the agency, but they have an even larger, more important commitment to their family.
They are proud. Successful women are comfortable with who they are, and they are proud to be female. They understand and utilize the scientific and physiological advantages that woman enjoy in the police profession. They ask for no special considerations and they have high expectations for themselves and for each other. They value and mentor other women, and they strive to be a role model and a leader, both on and off duty.