Answer by India L.J.Mitchell, Retired Police officer
It can be different for every woman but in general, there are a few assumptions made by some male cops and some civilians.
Many civilian women would warn me to call for back up (although it was usually on its way) if they were in a fight with their boyfriend and he was a big guy. Most guys would go into their flirtation mode and even try to get me to go out with them!
Another assumption is that women just can't handle the job physically the way a man can. Interestingly, most women are better at calming people down with verbal techniques so they don't often have to be as physical. But when the adrenaline hits, most women can get that superhuman strength they need, to contain a suspect when necessary.
The smartest male cops always saw the benefit in having a female on a call with him. When a male cop goes into a house and starts telling another male what to do, many feel they must take action. But female officers bring a sort of peaceful vibe and seem less threatening.
Female cops are also stereotyped as being gay a lot and some are. But if you are heterosexual, it's assumed you will probably have sex with most of the male officers. This is an "inside" the department problem, but it's a problem nonetheless. And it's part of being a female cop.
There's a sense of constantly having to prove yourself over and over.
The first three years I worked patrol (and even later at times) when I would get a radio call with a male officer, I knew another male officer would come to back him up to protect him in case I didn't. It was very annoying to realize that the accepted thought process was that because someone had male genitalia, he was automatically qualified for the job, but no woman ever was.
It was the same for minority officers. They also were considered (but not as obviously) less competent than the average white male officer.
Now, women didn't really become a fixture here until the 1990s and we all knew each other. But even today women make up a rather low percentage of most departments.
Another big issue is emptying one's bladder.
Men can still get behind a tree or down an alley. Female cops have to take almost all their gear off, not to mention get somewhere to go! The uniform and gear can weigh around 22-25 pounds. On a 200 pound person that's 1/8th their body weight.
When you are female and weigh 125 pounds that changes the percentage you are carrying around to 1/5 your body weight. Yet you are expected to run as fast, jump over the same fences and wrestle the same people and not hurt them and then arrest them. That's why the smart women learned to use their brains when dealing with volatile people.
Some female cops think to be the best cop is to imitate the male cop's behaviors. I disagree. I tried that and it got me nowhere.
One shift I was driving down the street of my district and a young man "cat called" me and whistled. It irritated me as I felt it disrespectful to my profession and to me. I spun my cruiser around, got out and walked up to this young guy and began my lecture. I told him how hard I had to work to just get hired, then get through the academy of 40 plus men and five women and three years on the street with people who didn't believe in me.
He apologized and so did I as I felt I was being too hard on him. He said he admired me but he thought I was "cute too." Back then I was exasperated. Today I'd be grateful for his comment.
There's much more I could tell, but being a cop is a difficult job. No matter who you are. But being female and a cop, is probably more challenging than most people know.