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Hiring More Women Is the Answer To the Problem of Police Brutality: Female Officers Use Less Force, Solve Conflicts With Almost 100% Fewer Complaints

January 28, 2015

Women on a police force are less likely than male coworkers to use excessive and deadly force, studies show, relying more on interpersonal skills. If policymakers knew the data, says one advocate, they’d “go on a hiring spree and hire more women.”

So begins an advocacy article discussing the benefit of having women on a police force. Given these statistics, one has to wonder if the rash of violent confrontations leading to deaths of young minority men would be lower if we had more women on those forces.

Female officers have been proven to be better at solving conflicts using less violence and provoking 98% fewer complaints:

Only 5% of citizen complaints of excessive force and 2% of sustained allegations of excessive force in large agencies involve female officers.

Source: National Center for Women and Policing

It’s the best kept secret around: female officers are better at defusing violent situations than their male counterparts. Studies prove this. According to an article in Women’s eNews, when genders are compared, female officers are simply more effective than their male counterparts:

Spillar echoes several years of studies that indicate that women on a police force are less likely than male coworkers to use excessive and deadly force. They are also less likely to be involved in fights or acts of aggression on the job. Female officers rely more on interpersonal skills and deescalate potentially violent situations more often than men.

Women and men, for example, obtained similar results when handling angry or violent citizens, found a comparative studypublished in the 1990s by the Police Foundation in Washington, D.C. However, female patrol officers tended to be more effective than their male counterparts in avoiding and defusing violent situations. Researchers also found that women were less likely than men to engage in serious unbecoming conduct.

A more recent study, released in 2002 by the National Center for Women and Policing, a division of the Feminist Majority Foundation, came to the same conclusions after looking at seven U.S. police agencies.

This type of information tends to make men defensive. One woman who used to work as a police officer is speaking out about how the men on the force made her fear for her life, quit her job as a police officer, not the criminals on the streets:

Carole Armstrong was a police officer in the 1980s in Norfolk, Va., though she quit the force years ago. Last month, she stood among protesters in New York City to denounce police violence. Armstrong got into a heated exchange with a man defending the way police officer Daniel Pantaleo arrested Garner last summer in Staten Island.

“I was a 100-pound policer officer and I never killed anybody,” Armstrong shouted at the man. “I arrested men bigger than Eric Garner and I never killed them. How come a 100-pound woman can arrest men and not kill them? How come 10 police [officers] cannot arrest a man without killing him?”

Armstrong, who’s now a realtor in New York City, joined the police force after getting her bachelor’s degree and yearning for a government job. She spent a year as an undercover officer and over a year patrolling the streets of Norfolk.

She left the job, Armstrong said, because she feared for her life; not from the men she arrested but from the people she worked with. Several times after a work shift, for example, she said she found her car tires were slashed. “They really made it clear they were jealous … they made it really clear that I was not welcome as a co-worker.”

Armstrong said she never killed anyone during her career, no matter the size of the suspect. Instead of using her weapon, which should be “your last resort,” she said she relied on negotiation. “The way you approach someone, the way you speak to someone is going to dictate the outcome.”

When Armstrong joined the Norfolk police force she was only 21 and barely weighed 100 pounds. Though she worked out, she knew her physical attributes would not play in her favor in a physical confrontation with bigger men. That is one of the reasons, Armstrong said, women tend to communicate and negotiate. That should have been the approach used with Garner, she added. “There were other ways to arrest that man without killing him. He didn’t have a knife, he didn’t have a gun . . .  it is just over abuse of power.”

So why aren’t more women hired? Why aren’t there more women on the police force? Is it because, like Carol Armstrong, the female officers fear that male officers will kill them? Is it because there is still so much gender discrimination that women don’t get hired? Some of it literally comes down to whether or not men design the obstacle courses that determine physical fitness. Really, how the playground is designed determines whether or not women make it into the police force, according to Women’s eNews:

Various studies indicate a reluctance of police departments to recruit women and have them patrol the streets. When hired, women are traditionally assigned to “women’s work,” such as clerical duties, working with youth or guarding female prisoners. Patrolling the “frontlines” of crime exposes women to violence and many police administrators have serious reservations about a woman’s ability to perform well in violent situations, the Police Foundation said on its website.

Spillar said this discrimination against female officers starts from recruitment and that police departments nationally use unfair standards. “The biggest discriminatory practice is that they continue to use physical agility tests that favor people with high upper body strength.”

Yet, research has shown there is no correlation between upper body strength, physical strength and success as a police officer.

“If the police departments would stop using discriminatory tests and practices the number of women would start to shoot up,” said Spillar, adding that communication and negotiation skills aren’t tested.

The number of women in law enforcement has barely changed nationally over the past decade; they made up 14 percent of police forces in 1998 and 15.2 percent in 2008, according to the latest data by the Bureau of Justice of Statistics. In the NYPD, the number of full-time female officers was 5,743 (15 percent) in 1997 and 6,151 (17 percent) in 2007.

The NYPD didn’t respond to an interview request for the most recent figures on women in their ranks and test practices.

Most men don’t like to admit that they need women (take a look a China, and you will find a whole country that feels that way), but the fact of the matter is, balancing gender ratios always benefits people. The Border Patrol is now recruiting women. There are plenty of men who believe that adding women to the ranks does not detract from their own personal achievements.

The U.S. Border Patrol recently launched a call to hire more women. “As a police chief for a long time, I know that women in law enforcement bring a huge amount of positive to any law enforcement agency, and increasing those numbers for the Border Patrol will do exactly the same thing,” Border Patrol Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske said in a recent Federal News Radiointerview. “Women bring a perspective and negotiating skill to law enforcement that we very much need.”

Now, if we can just more women on the force, we can find out exactly how much better our policing could be.



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