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What Makes A Successful Female Officer

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. 

They are warriors.  Successful women police officers understand the nature of warrior ethos and embrace a warrior mindset.  They study the traits and habits of those who win professionally, tactically and personally.  They are optimistic, they expect good things and they nurture a belief system that fuels motivation and hard work.  They are persistent, they set and pursue their goals and they tackle problems head-on.  They understand the nature of sacrifice.  They value their own life and the lives of those they serve, and they are as prepared to take a life as they are to save one. 

These are just a few of the characteristics that I’ve observed in so many of the truly successful women warriors that I have worked with, trained with, and commiserated with, and I look forward to hearing yours!  In the mean time, stay safe. 


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About The Author:

Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith is a 29-year veteran of a large suburban Chicago police department. Recently retired as a patrol supervisor, she has held positions in patrol, investigations, narcotics, juvenile, crime prevention and field training. As a sergeant, she supervised her department's K-9 Unit, served as a field training sergeant, recruitment team sergeant, bike patrol coordinator, the Crowd Control Bike Team supervisor, and supervisor of the Community Education/Crime Prevention Unit.

As a patrol sergeant, Betsy served on the Elderly Services Team, the Crisis Intervention Team, and was a supervisory member of the Honor Guard Unit. From 1999 - 2003 Betsy hosted various programs for the Law Enforcement Television Network and served as a content expert.

A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety's School of Staff and Command, Betsy writes for numerous law enforcement and government publications including and is a regular columnist for many police websites including Police Link. A content expert and instructor for the Calibre Press "Street Survival" seminar since 2003, Betsy also serves as an on-air commentator and advisor for Police One TV and was a featured character in the Biography Channel’s “Female Forces” reality show. Betsy has been a law enforcement trainer for over 20 years and is a popular keynote speaker at conferences throughout the United States and Canada and beyond.

Betsy is the lead instructor for the Calibre Press “Street Survival for Women” seminar and manages Dave Smith & Associates. Together, Betsy and Dave teach courses through “Winning Mind Seminars,” an Illinois based company. She can be reached through her website at