We Need More Women on Police Forces

That's a lotta testosterone on the march there.Alicia Armijo/ZUMA

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Want to reduce the toxic masculinity that defines so many militarized police forces in the US? Rosa Brooks says part of the answer is obvious:

Decades of research show female officers can handle hostile and violent suspects as well as their male counterparts, but a 2017 Pew survey found only 11 percent of female officers reported they had ever fired their weapon while on duty, compared with 30 percent of male officers. Female officers were also less likely to believe aggression is more useful than courtesy, less likely to agree some people “can only be brought to reason the hard, physical way” and less likely to report their jobs had made them callous.

These attitudinal differences are reflected in behavior. Controlling for differences in assignments, studies show female officers are significantly less likely to use force than male officers, more likely to display empathy and more likely to de-escalate fraught encounters. One study, for instance, found female officers were 27 percent less likely than male officers to “exhibit extreme controlling behaviors such as threats, physical restraint, searches, and arrest” in their interactions with citizens. Another concluded suspects arrested by female officers were less likely to be injured.

Hire more women. Reduce discretionary encounters between police and civilians. Change the rules on use of deadly force. End no-knock warrants. Reform the qualified immunity standard. Train, train, and train again on de-escalation. There are so many things we could do if we were really serious about reforming policing in America.

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