Female-specific training allows women to learn tactics that work for their build and physical realities.
Visit www.lifelinetraining.com/courses_fe.html for more information on Sgt. Pam Starr's "Female Enforcers" training course.
FEATURED IN LIFELINE TRAINING
Editor's Note: Sgt. Pam Starr teaches a course called “Female Enforcers” for Lifeline Training (www.lifelinetraining.com). She recently received an email from a female officer who was denied a request to attend Sgt. Starr’s seminar. Pam assisted the officer by writing this letter as a response to his reason for denial to attend.
I’m writing in response to your denial of my request to attend the training class "Female Enforcers"—a course designed to address gender-specific issues for women in our profession. In explaining your denial, you wrote that the department doesn’t support “gender-biased” training as “law enforcement is no longer male-dominated.” Respectfully, I disagree with both your decision and your reasoning.
First, I’d like to address your assertion negating male dominance in law enforcement. According to both the National Association of Women Police and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, women make up only 13–15% of law enforcement officers nationwide. When it comes to occupying positions on command staffs, our representation is a dismal 7%. Since men occupy 85% of the positions in law enforcement—by any standard—males absolutely dominate the profession.
Second, regarding your statement about the lack of support for gender-biased training, I beg to differ. Our department does currently support it—they simply call it “training.” During defensive tactics training, for example, I’m routinely paired with a female partner—that’s gender bias as I’m being singled out as a female. When we have physical tests, the requirements for me differ from those for men. Again, I’m being singled out—that’s bias.
Please understand, I’m not arguing against bias in training—in fact I’m for it! The reason I support some aspects of gender-biased training is because the training is based on reality: women are generally shorter than men. We have less muscle mass than men. We generally have smaller hands than men. And in many cases, we make allowances and train for those differences, as we should.
Newton’s Laws of Physics
Granted, most of the training I’ve received is based on the 5'10" 180 lbs. male model—even photos of techniques in our training manuals show officer-suspect interactions in which all parties are the same height and build. The techniques taught at the academy, which I am supposed to use to control suspects, are based on leverage and balance displacement. Newton’s Laws of Physics, however, argue against those very techniques working for me, so there should be special adjustments.
For instance, Newton argued that a body in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. The change in the primary body occurs faster with greater force and slower with lesser force. The force behind my (120 lbs.) knee strike is no match for the force behind a 220 pound suspect’s knee strike. There must be some way for me to offset the weight discrepancy if I’m to win the fight.
Also, Newton proved that force equals mass times acceleration. That is, the force behind my knee strike is a product of my mass and how fast I can throw the knee. Again, by plugging numbers into this equation, we know that the force of my strike, even if the speed equals that of someone who outweighs me by one hundred pounds, still renders my strike less effective as the force is dependent also on mass. I’m at a disadvantage not based on any political designation or gender assignment, but on fact—females are generally lighter and smaller in stature. Athletic trainers understand that what works for one athlete won’t work for all. Knowledgeable and experienced law enforcement trainers know this too and should tailor training to the specific needs of the officer. Female-specific training allows me to learn tactics that work for my build and physical realities.
Years ago (before we had gender-biased training), the department had a policy (as many still do) that all officers were issued double-stack magazine handguns. Those sidearms put me at a distinct disadvantage in deadly force encounters because a gun with that grip is too big for my smaller hand. When I gripped that type of weapon, I couldn’t properly place my finger on the trigger.
In those days, rather than train for physical realities, firearms instructors advised me to alter my grip so I could get my finger on the trigger. However, that didn’t allow me the best control of the weapon since after each shot I had to readjust my grip, leading to decreased accuracy and delays in shots (which in a real gunfight could be the difference between winning and losing—life and death). Carrying a weapon that didn’t suit my physique, put me, my fellow officers and our citizens at risk.
But after reading Vicki Farnam’s book, Teaching Women to Shoot: A Law Enforcement Instructor’s Guide, we adjusted. We learned from her study that by simply carrying a single-stack magazine weapon, smaller female officers could obtain a proper grip, proper trigger finger placement, and subsequently, shoot much better. Mark Wammack, who instructed at the Dallas Police Department Firearms Training Center, also taught that a short trigger and different grips could improve weapon handling and lead to greater firearms proficiency for females. I am eternally grateful to these two trainers for sharing this “gender-biased” information.
The job of any training cadre should be to offer comprehensive training to prepare officers for the challenges they will face in the field as individuals. If one-size-fits-all-training is used in agencies, the result is officers working the streets, using force, covering other officers and protecting citizens without the requisite skill sets necessary to do their jobs effectively and safely.
Since we do, and should, utilize bias-based training in this male-dominated profession, I urge you to reconsider your position and allow me to seek training that I know will improve my abilities as a police officer and limit the liability to the department.
A Female Patrol Officer