By Robin Morisey • January 14, 2016•Issues, Women and Law in the Media
Law enforcement has long been considered by both those inside of it and those outside of it as a “boys' club.” It is so ingrained in American culture that law enforcement officers are men that the few women who do decide to join up and serve their communities are often met with resentment and have to deal with harassment and violence not just from citizens but from the men within their own departments. Those who stick with the job are rarely promoted to supervisory or high ranking roles. It’s no wonder that, according to a 2013 report, only 13% of the police force in the United States is female. But that needs to change.
As the population grows (and grows more violent, which we’ll discuss in a minute), so does the need for law enforcement professionals. You can see this need not just in municipal population numbers and jobs reports but in the schools. More and more colleges and universities are offering criminal justice degrees and some, like Gwynedd Mercy University, one of the criminal justice schools in Philadelphia, even offer a lot of their coursework via online and accelerated programs. Schools are making it easier to get the degrees needed for careers in law enforcement that range from police officer to forensics experts. But what we need to see more of is not women who work in criminal science laboratories (which is where the few that go into law enforcement seem to wind up most of the time). We need women who want to be cops and detectives and SWAT team members. We need to see a female presence taking care of our streets and our people. Why?
Women Are Safer
According to a recent article by Al Jazeera, female police officers are less likely to use their weapons during a confrontation. They are also less likely to resort to “unnecessary physical force” than male police officers are. In other words, female officers are more likely to reach peaceful (though that term is obviously subjective and relative) solutions in their cases and confrontations than their male coworkers. Less violence sounds like a good thing to us.
Women Do a Better Job at the Job
This might not always seem like the case, given how often we hear about harassment and violence being levvied toward female officers. But the truth is, according to that same aforementioned Al Jazeera article, female officers receive fewer complaints than men do. And the discrepancies between complaints lodged against female officers compared to those lodged against males is significant enough to encourage further investigation into why it is that people have better dealings overall with female officers.
Stereotypes Need to Die
It would be easy to assume that the reason women aren’t as violent and are better received is because of any number of stereotypes assigned to women: they’re nicer, they’re sweeter, they’re more likely to sympathize with the person they’re talking to, maybe even that civilians don’t take them as seriously as they do the male officers (maybe that has something to do with that whole men more likely to escalate violence unnecessarily thing). But those stereotypes need to be squashed. The fact is that women are just as capable of violence as men, but we gravitate toward other methods of problem solving first.
Help for Victims
Make no mistake, a significant percentage of the victims that are dealt with by police are female. And, as women, we know that it is typically easier to talk to another woman about what we’ve had to deal with or endure. Men tend to take our statements less seriously than those of other men and, particularly in cases of rape and domestic violence, are quick to blame the victim and side with the alleged perpetrator. Having more women on the force would ensure that female victims have a better chance of being heard and taken seriously when they are interviewed. Finally, diversity is a good thing. We all talk a good game about wanting to change how law enforcement professionals operate. We talk about outfitting them with body cams, etc. all in an effort to curb the violence (often disproportionately aimed at minorities and women) happening on our streets. But if the numbers prove that violence is often incited by the male population of the police force, maybe if more women joined, those numbers would shift.