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Sgt. Kristina Lidak Droste, "Our Femininity is Our Strength"

The following was written by Michigan State Police (MSP) Sgt. Kristina Lidak Droste, JD.

Reprinted from Police Chief, Vol. 91, No. 3, pages 14‐16, 2024.

Women in law enforcement are not strong for women, or strong despite being women. They need not be as tough as a man or tougher than men. Women are strong and tough and formidable.

Yet, the unique strengths that women bring to the profession are some of law enforcement’s most valuable untapped resources. Police leaders are well-versed by now in the low representation of women in the field of policing. However, the true value that women add to the profession is still often overlooked.


One of the reasons I entered law enforcement is because I was frustrated at the lack of women in the profession. The few women I had encountered were outstanding officers and brought their own unique strengths to the field. As I found myself encouraging agencies to seek out more women and found myself encouraging women to choose the profession, it occurred to me that I was just the woman I was hoping would join.

There were many reasons not to make the leap: I had already begun a promising career in law, my family was less than crazy about the change; the schedule was less comfortable; of course, the job was more dangerous than any I had ever considered or held—and I am a petite woman of average height, not exactly a stereotypical trooper. But there was one great reason to do so: I knew I brought something unique to the table that would improve the service to my community, the public, and the profession—I knew I would make a great trooper.

Somewhere along my journey, I lost that confidence in my unique strengths. I was surrounded by men—and typically only men—all the time. I began to feel like I was treated differently within the profession and by the public. When a suspect tried to flirt with me, I perceived it as an attempt to disarm me, and I hated my colleagues knowing when it happened. When a suspect tried to flirt with my male partners, they perceived it as a funny story to boast about in the squad room. I saw this experience so differently because I had become ashamed of my femininity. When a motorist complained about a colleague, it was “a trooper,” but when a motorist complained about me, it was “the lady trooper.” When I was not in uniform and someone (almost without fail) responded in disbelief that I was a trooper, I took it as a personal attack based on my gender. I internalized these differences to my detriment. And because I internalized them, my colleagues grew to know my differences as my weaknesses.

When I was on the range for firearms, I assumed I represented all women to the men with whom I was shooting. So, any less-than-perfect shot was not just a point deduction for me, but a failure—in my mind—to all women in the profession. I carried this weight around feeling like I had to prove myself and prove all women as “good enough” for the boys’ club.

I do not claim to know the experiences of every woman in law enforcement. I think, to some degree, though, we have all felt this pressure to fit in, the pressure to prove our value, the pressure to be one of the guys. But in acquiescing to that pressure, we lose a part of what makes us unique. We are each strong, brave, fierce, formidable, intelligent, and caring—in our own ways. And this is not just because we are the select few who choose law enforcement. It is not the case that we are better than, tougher than, or braver than other women. It is the case that women are tough and brave. We need not view other women—inside or outside the profession—as competition.


The popular mindset in the profession often questions if women can be as effective as men, as physically capable as men, and as good as men at the job. And, just as many men in the profession expect women to prove themselves (more than they expect men to do so), women, too, often feel the need to do so. But this can turn into an attempt to be like the men—to be one of the guys. This mindset ignores the unique value that women bring to the profession.

The profession has identified both use of force and community police engagement as critical issues. The research makes it abundantly clear that women excel in these areas. And, yet, as the importance of these two particular issues rises, the number of women in the profession remains fairly consistent. Years of research show that women are less likely than their male counterparts to use physical force and less likely to use fatal or excessive force. This is not because women are somehow reluctant or hesitant to use force when necessary. To the contrary, when necessary, women are equally likely to physically engage, but women tend to practice a style of policing less reliant on physical force. In addition, women are also more likely to implement community-oriented policing approaches.


Law enforcement agencies are acutely aware of the growing cost of litigation. Scrutiny on use of force and duty to intervene grows not just in civil litigation, but in the increased numbers of criminal charges against officers as well. However, women are less likely to be named in lawsuits and less likely to engage in police misconduct.6 Agencies can learn from their women officers and look to them as role models.

The role of women in policing is not simply to increase diversity or to better reflect the communities we serve. Women are outstanding law enforcement officers in their own right. They make great instructors, field training officers, and supervisors. Yet, police leaders too often expect applicants for such positions to fit the mold of those who came before them—the overwhelming majority of whom, of course, were men. It’s important that leaders and recruiters not be so caught up in what previous successful leaders have looked like that they overlook the incredible (and unique) strengths that women bring to a team and agency.

Most importantly, women in this profession should embrace their unique, individual strengths. Whatever your femininity Chief’s Counsel is—whatever makes you, you—it is your strength. Own it, for it is what makes you strong and what makes (or will make) you a great officer and valuable asset to your agency.

Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Inc., 44 Canal Center Plaza, Suite 200, Alexandria, VA 22314. Further reproduction without express permission from IACP is strictly prohibited.