Looking for less police violence? Perhaps it’s time for some gender variation.
KIRO Radio’s “Tom and Curley” dissected a New York Magazine article that says adding women to police forces would reduce officer-involved killings and excessive-force issues. The article considers a number of stats, including the fact that female officers accounted for just 3.4 percent of officers involved in the “83 most serious lawsuits” against the Los Angeles Police Department from 1986 to 1990. It also notes that women are more skilled at de-escalating issues and have shown to be generally less confrontational.
However, law enforcement is still a male-dominated profession, with about 88 percent of the force being men – which is an even bigger imbalance than in active-duty military.
In the wake of the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, followed by the murders of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Tom Tangney said the article does a good job of looking at another way to solve the problems.
“This might actually be a way to improve tensions that exist between the races,” Tangney said. “Everything is being looked at through a racial visor, maybe look at it through a gender visor.”
Curley, who says most of his research comes from watching the TV show “Cops,” says that the drunk or drugged people who police commonly interact with tend to react differently to female officers than they do male.
“When you’re drunk and the cop comes up, you sort of want to make a swing at the male cop, but are less likely to take a swing at the female cop,” Curley said. “I just think that’s the way it goes.”
The hosts noted that female officers are generally better at using open communication, such as not crossing their arms or putting their hands on their hips when speaking, which keeps people at ease.
But, of course, there are exceptions to these stereotypes. The Seattle Police Department fired officer Cynthia Whitlatch last year for showing racial bias afterimproperly arresting a 69-year-old black man who was using a golf club as a cane, as well as posting racially-fueled comments on Facebook.
Tom also noted that the article doesn’t address the full story. Even if 95 percent of an officer’s interactions have nothing to do with violence, the examination doesn’t address that other 5 percent.
“Are there times when a male cop with an aggressive point of view actually be more effective than a woman,” Tangney asked. “For instance, I would assume most of the violent criminals are male. I wonder if a violent criminal might be better handled by a violent male cop.”