I circled back to the Facebook questions to look for topics that would allow me to answer a few questions at a time. Yuri Alvarez and Laura Andersen both had questions related to issues affecting women in law enforcement. I thought taking a few shots at this topic would be interesting, but not easy. I’ll probably miss the 10-ring completely. Keep in mind: I’ve supervised, reported to and worked with many women, but Ol’ Bullethead can’t offer direct testimony about being a woman in law enforcement. So I’ll probably screw it up worse than the last accident investigation report I tried to write.
Now, Ol’ Bullethead wouldn’t be able to cover—or even think of—all of the possible issues for women in law enforcement. But what comes to mind are on-the-job issues with coworkers, victims, witnesses and suspects; personal issues with coworkers; and personal issues with civilians. I don’t have the ability to deal with the personal issues of female cops, so I’ll just say good luck on that front.
From what I’ve seen, women mirror exactly the same traits as men. Some are diligent while others are lazy. Some make great patrol cops, while others make great detectives, sergeants and brass. The real difference is seen when female cops do something wrong: The criticism females receive is amplified about a million times more than their male counterparts. Since this is still an incredibly male-dominated profession (nationally, there are about 12% women in LE), any mistake made by a female is blamed on her being a female. The “he’s a good dude” rule that allows male cops to screw up and be quickly forgiven by other male cops unfortunately doesn’t get applied to women.
I try to do my part to combat this issue by pointing out similar faults in male cops whenever I hear the boys go off about how much a screw-up one of the female cops is based on a single incident. Particularly when I know those making the comments have made similar mistakes.
I also like to point out that many crooks could tear the heads off many male cops just as easily as they could female cops. It kills me when I hear some chubby, out-of-shape male cop go off about how one of the female cops wouldn’t have been able to deal with the monster parolee he just took care of. The only reason the monster went easily into cuffs is because he
decided to. Female cops have all those fun toys on their belts just like males do. And we all have each other because more cops is the best way to stop a fight.
Another issue I’ve heard about: Victims and witnesses from certain cultures who don’t recognize the authority of female officers. Mrs. Bullethead dealt with this when she was on the job and it drove her nuts: “These idiots call us, and then won’t talk to me.” These same people told the Mrs. she wasn’t allowed to speak with the females in the house because the males did the talking for the family. I’m positive a number of male victims and witnesses got put quickly into check. My advice: Female officers in these circumstances should maintain their professional demeanor and work through the issues. These cultures need to understand the equality of women in our culture, and you get to teach them.
I was having a conversation with a female officer who worked for me when I asked her why she hadn’t heard of a certain issue brought up in our department. She nailed me with a one-two punch that knocked me off of my boots. She said, “No idea what you’re talking about. I don’t get dressed in the male locker room.” I see myself as an advocate of women in LE and this two-year cop slapped the smile right off my face. She showed me how the structures and processes in place can negatively affect female officers. It was a needed lesson and I changed my behavior because of it. If something worth knowing comes up in the locker room, I share it at briefing so everyone gets exposed.
Our profession is a lot more than knuckle-dragging these days. A female perspective can be fantastic for problem solving or working a case. I’ll take a hardworking female on any of my teams every time, and we’ll be a stronger unit for it. My advice: Female cops must not be afraid to put the good ol’ boys in their place by pointing out errors—as the young female cop did to me—while also retaining the perspective they bring to this profession. Female cops must be willing to stick up for themselves and for each other.
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