YOU enter a police station and see a policewoman passing by, holding a pile of papers.
You think, “She must be one of those doing an administrative job, right?”
Wrong. She is likely working on a case, preparing for an anti-vice raid later that night when she will probably have to go after bad hats in poorly lit areas.
And she is also possibly a mother who, the night before, sat with her daughter after dinner to help her prepare for her school examinations.
It is all in a day’s work for female crimebusters in the police force. And these women, who started their career in the force, want to end their working life in law enforcement as well. No turning back. They are, however, quite a minority.
There are about 14,327 policewomen in the country, with about 22.6% of them holding the ranks of inspector and above, says Bukit Aman Deputy Director of Management (Service & Personnel) Deputy Comm Datuk Fatimah Abdul Hamid.
This means that they make up about 12% of the 133,212-strong police force.
DCP Fatimah acknowledges the need for more female crimebusters.
“We certainly need more. And we are very fortunate to have the support of the top brass, especially the Inspector-General of Police. We have specific instructions from the IGP to ensure there should be no less than 20% of women at every intake,” she says.
Hence, the police force is planning to recruit about 600 women police constables this month, DCP Fatimah adds.
Last month, 67 out of 234 officers being considered for new inspector posts were females.
“This is encouraging. When I joined the force in 1977, women were seldom seen in strategic posts,” she says, noting that more women began rising up to leadership posts around the noughties.
DCP Fatimah stresses that women police officers who have risen up the ranks did so on their own merit and competence.
“As far as I am concerned, it is not a matter of tokenism because women police officers have always been put in strategic posts,” she says, pointing out that women have held the posts of district police chief (OCPD), Deputy OCPD and even state police chiefs.
“There are also policewomen serving in the Special Branch or taking part in special operations,” she highlights. This does not include women who helmed the departments in Bukit Aman.
Furthermore, a recently retired senior woman officer, who is also a former department director, now sits on the Police Force Commission, which looks into all policies regarding the police at all levels. She is the first woman to do so.
Police stations have also been led by women officers. Others played an active part in other departments like crime prevention, narcotics, commercial crimes departments and even at the anti-terrorism unit.
“The women are certainly performing alongside their male colleagues but it probably isn’t highlighted as much, that’s why you don’t see them,” she says.
These women, she says, were placed in challenging roles as part of the process to groom them for higher positions in the police force.
“When a woman is placed in a strategic post, it is a recognition of her skills and that she has what it takes to move further up the ranks.”
To further hone their skills, a Police Women Development Management Committee was set up in 2011 to look into areas such as recruitment, career development and other matters more specific to women officers such as personal grooming, self-image and even their uniforms and handbags.
“The handbag is the one thing we can have that the men don’t,” DCP Fatimah says with a smile.
These women carry the handbag during occasions such as marches and in their daily duties. The bag contains a special holster for their gun and it features the Royal Malaysia Police logo inside it.
DCP Fatimah says there is no gender discrimination in the force. Everyone gets a fair chance at rising up the ranks as long as they meet the criteria.
“It doesn’t take the women police officers longer, compared to their male colleagues. As long as you are competent and your performance is good, you can move up.”
According to DCP Fatimah, the committee conducted a survey last year to find out whether discrimination was a factor during promotion exercises in the force. More than 60% of the respondents dismissed it, saying that no such thing happened in the workplace.
“In fact, the women agree that they were being given the same opportunities for career enhancement as their male colleagues,” she says, adding that all police personnel have equal pay and opportunities for career development.
While competency and experience are key factors, DCP Fatimah says mental and physical strength would be taken into consideration as well.
“As policewomen, we face many challenges on and off the field. We need to think positive and focus on getting the job done,” she notes.
This kind of go-getter attitude is what pushed DCP Fatimah to rise up the ranks in her 40 years in the force.
“People have this perception that women cannot be in a man’s domain but I think we can do it because our main focus is to get the job done right,” she says.