A question that continues to get very quiet discussion in police departments is whether women belong in the police and, if so, in what jobs. A few thoughts:
To begin, the integration of women has not proved a disaster, or anything resembling one. It isn’t a huge deal. Mostly it has worked.
A little perspective may show why.
As a reporter I’ve watched women entering four different public services: The military, the fire departments, the emergency-medical outfits, and the police. Let’s look at each.
The military experiment has been a disaster, though the media carefully don’t cover it and military men know their careers will end if they talk about what’s going on. Part of the problem isn’t the fault of women, but of the choice of which women to accept — for example, the turning of the services into homes for unwed mothers. Much of it is physical incapacity. Women can’t carry heavy packs, can’t do heavy jobs, so the men have to do double work to cover for them. Sprains, and stress fractures are far more common among women. Political correctness makes it impossible to discipline them like the men. It is a disaster.
In the fire departments (which I know least about) the problem is chiefly physical. Hoses, unconscious bodies, and equipment are physically hard to handle. Feminists insist that physical standards don’t matter, or constitute discrimination against women, and try to lower or abolish them. Well, they do matter. Not good.
In ambulance crews, women, as least as I have seen them on accident scenes, do a fine job. This isn’t a surprise, since women have been shock-trauma nurses forever. But they can’t carry stretchers. A friend of mine once had to carry his father’s stretcher down the stairs because the (medically perfectly competent) female ambulance crewman couldn’t. Usually, when I see ambulances at work, this isn’t a problem. There are enough guys to do it.
The police: Almost all the time, female police do well. An important reason, I think, is that women are usually expected to meet the same standards of intelligence and behavior as the men. Police departments, unlike the military today, are not disguised welfare. Policewomen do not carry illegitimate babies in the backs of their cars.
Further, the attitude of female cops I’ve seen has consistently been one of determination to prove that they can perform as well as the men. On average, they answer the calls, don’t hold back and wait for the men to do it. They do not have problems with the exercise of authority. They don’t get emotionally pushed around by the public.
What they don’t have is physical strength. A woman, 5’3,” 120 pounds, is physically helpless against a normal man. The women don’t like to admit it. They evade, talk about staying out of reach, getting backup, or managing calls so that fighting isn’t necessary. Fact is, if a young male weighing 180 jumps her, a female cop doesn’t have a chance.
How much does this matter?
Usually, not at all. Cops seldom do anything requiring physical strength. The authority of the badge usually produces compliance. Bad guys know that if they resist one cop, thirty more show up, and some carry shotguns. I’ve gone on many calls with tiny little women, and they’ve had no trouble.
The rub is that occasionally things do get physical. Usually it’s not a big deal. For example, the drunk gets obstreperous. It takes a couple of minutes for a small woman to get backup, and she does. Male cops also can run up against a bigger male whom they obviously can’t handle.
The rare, serious problem comes when a male jumps a woman right now, bang, unexpectedly. It does happen, infrequently. She can’t handle it. She then either gets beaten or, if she can, shoots the assailant. The in-between, which a man has, isn’t there.
A man, aside from being larger and heavier, is pound for pound far stronger, and built tougher. Men fight better. Any man who has playfully wrestled his girlfriend knows how easy she is to take down, because she doesn’t know where her weight is, doesn’t know where the trip will come from. Schoolyard experience? Instinct? I don’t know. The only cops I know who have been seriously beaten up (three) were women.
Is it a problem that needs to have something done about it? No. There are lots of female cops on the streets every night, and you never hear about them. No major problem.
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