UT Police Department Lt. Laura Davis had just finished walking a woman to her car late at night when she first realized the difference between being a female cop and a male cop.
“The woman told me that she was going to watch me safely get back to my car,” Davis said. “I doubt she would have done that for a male police officer. I didn’t take it as something horrible though, because I knew she was just trying to look out for me too.”
Davis is one of 11 female police officers for UTPD, which is comprised of about 95 police officers.
“Not a lot of kids are raised thinking that police work is for girls,” Davis said. “That’s the only reason I can think of for the small number of female officers.”
Davis, who has worked at the UTPD for almost 19 years, said she chose to be a police officer because she likes to teach people different ways to stay safe. Being a woman never stopped her from pursuing this dream, Davis said.
“My dad was a chief of police and my mom was a teacher, so I thought I could get the best of both worlds by being in police work,” Davis said. “My grandmother was a little shocked because she expected me to be a secretary, but overall my family is very proud of me for what I’ve done.”
Although people think it’s harder to be a female police officer because they have different advantages than male officers in certain areas of police work that make the job easier, Davis said.
“I definitely think (females) are better talkers,” Davis said. “When you’re a police officer, 90 percent of your job is talking to the public, and this generally comes easier to women. It gives us a different facet to working in law enforcement.”
Davis said people act differently at crime scenes because she is a female officer.
“Sometimes when we come on a scene, it will de-escalate just because it’s a female officer handling it,” Davis said. “It’s not always the truth, but it happens because someone doesn’t want to act a certain way in front of me. People tend to get more upset when they see male police officers.”
Professional accounting graduate student Tasha Torres said she has only seen one female police officer on campus.
“Police officers are not typically seen as a female job,” Torres said. “In the grander scheme of things, women do not feel as motivated to pursue law enforcement as a career because they assume police departments are only looking for male officers. It’s probably not the truth, but that doesn’t mean people don’t believe it.”
Davis said she is grateful for the opportunity to be a police officer and acknowledges that women in the past were not given the same access to law enforcement jobs.
“We have come a long way,” Davis said. “Nationally, over 14 percent of police departments are female and I appreciate all the work the women that came before me have done to break barriers. I try to teach my nieces that they can do whatever they set their mind to, even if it’s not seen as something that is considered a traditional female role.”