Traffic policewomen break the gender rule

Chen Huizhi
In the heart of the financial zone of Lujiazui, an all-female traffic police squad lays down the law.
Chen Huizhi
Traffic policewomen break the gender rule
Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

Shen Xi gets ready to work the morning rush hour.

Traffic policewomen break the gender rule
Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

Shen directs traffic at the intersection of Century Avenue and Pudong Road S.

Thirteen traffic policewomen and 33 female traffic assistants comprise the only all-women traffic police squad in Shanghai.

Talking to Shanghai Daily, officers spoke of the prejudices of the public toward women working as police officers and explained the difficulties involved in dealing with them.

The squad, established last year, manages traffic along Century Avenue, a thoroughfare cutting through the heart of the financial zone of Lujiazui.

At the avenue’s intersections with Pudong Road S. and Nanquan Road N., the officers work from 7am to 7pm in two shifts, directing traffic and enforcing the law.

Zhu Yuting, 29, joined the force in June 2015 and is now deputy head of the squad. She studied communication engineering in university before training as a traffic police officer.

Zhu said offenders make all kinds of excuses, most commonly claiming that they didn’t know the rules and questioning why other offenders are not punished. A large number of offenders are people riding bikes or e-bikes which are banned from Century Avenue.

“Sometimes, when a male officer appears, the offender will suddenly stop protesting,” she said. “For my part, I listen to the offender as much as possible and find that they often become more willing to cooperate.”

Zhu said that with the city’s ongoing campaign against traffic offenses, some pedestrians sometimes join her in explaining the rules to offenders.

Traffic policewomen break the gender rule
Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

Shen points the way for a pedestrian at the intersection.

Shen Xi, 25, is one of the youngest members of the squad. She joined in November last year. Having studied economics in university, she was trained to be a station officer but was assigned to the traffic squad.

Shen said working at a police station was very different from working as a traffic officer. While in the station, people usually come to get help, in the street, people often act very defensively, sometimes shockingly so.

“Once I stopped a food deliveryman and he threw his e-bike to the ground,” she recounted. “I was startled and called backup. He later apologized to me at the station.”

Shen said people see female officers differently from their male counterparts, imagining that women are more likely to back down.

“Sometimes when I have to raise my voice, they scold me for being too aggressive,” she said. “In such cases I reply that I am not being aggressive, but enforcing the law.”

Zhang Danqing, head and the eldest member of the squad, has been working as a police officer since 2008. She has not been with her colleagues since April this year when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

To her colleagues, Zhang's name is synonymous with hard work, experience and integrity.

In spring this year, she stopped an man who was biking in the wrong lane and tried to fine him, but he slipped away, leaving his identity card behind. Zhang waited at the intersection for a long time after work for the man to claim his ID card, but he didn’t show up. Two days later, he filed a complaint, saying that Zhang had seized his ID card for no good reason.

Later, on discovering that the man had no fixed income and lived in poverty, she helped him apply for welfare payments, and when the two met again, the man had only praise for her.

Zhang said she is more than willing to join her colleagues again when her health allows.

“Having conquered so many difficulties in work, I found my diagnosis a hard to accept, but then I realized I was lucky enough to have this highly curable form of cancer and my break from work could just be just that, a break.” 

Traffic policewomen break the gender rule
Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

Shen gives a fine to a woman for riding a bike on Century Avenue.

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