MayJune Associate Magazine.2018.FINAL
M AY 2 0 1 8 J U N E
WOMEN IN LAW ENFORCEMENT – RECOGNIZING UNIQUE ASPECTS OF NURTURING FEMALE WELLNESS
I n the last twenty years research has shown that women use a style of polic- ing that relies less on physical strength and deployment of force and more on communication and de-escalation of scenes. With this type of finding, one would assume law enforcement agencies would be clamoring to hire and retain qualified females. Unfortunately, many agencies are missing the boat in this area, even though it could be easily remedied with small tweaks to those agencies who have already established some sort of wellness program. The tweak- they need to make sure they are not putting square pegs in round holes as it pertains to identifying appropriate approaches to wellness for men and women. Just as women police differently from men in some respects, they are also likely to deal with workplace stress, worries and conflicts differ- ently. Therefore, a one-size fits all wellness approach will not work. A law en- forcement agency which understands these differences and makes appropriate changes in their Employee Wellness Program , will most likely see an increase in the hiring, advancement and retention of their female officers. In turn, these agencies will reap benefits in years to come with respect to a healthy, bal- anced and diverse workforce as well as improved community relations. EMOTIONAL WELLNESS Ask any law enforcement professional why they selected their profession and they will respond with something akin to, “I wanted to serve my commu- nity and help people.” This calling is no different between men and women. Likewise, workplace stress does not discriminate, as both men and women are expected to deal with death, tragedy and conflict day after day; year after year. As a result, police officers are expected to keep their emotions in check while out in the field, regardless of their own feelings or reactions to the scene in front of them. Often, these emotions are never really dealt with due to lack of time as officers respond from call to call. Additionally, there exists a self- imposed concept that acknowledging emotion is not acceptable in the police culture and officers learn to mask their feelings to their own detriment. According to an American Psychological Association (APA) study, women are more likely than men (28% vs 20%) to report having a great deal of stress and about half of those surveyed (49%) indicated their stress level was increasing as compared to 39% of men. Additionally, women are more likely to report physical and emotional symptoms of stress like headaches (41% vs 30%), feeling the desire to cry (44% vs 15%) and having an upset stomach or indigestion (32% vs 21%). The study confirmed that married women report higher levels of stress than single women and married women report feeling like they are not readily able to address the stress unlike their single counterparts.
For about the last decade, there has been a big push to increase the number of women among the rank and file of law enforcement. According to the most recent Bureau of Justice statistics, women accounted for about 13% of the full-time law enforcement work- force in 2013, which is up from 8% in 1987. Sadly, this is only a 4% increase over the course of 26 years and is even lower than the all-time high of 14.3% in 1999. Despite the gains women have made in policing since joining their male counterparts in the field in the 70’s, the twenty-first century has seen something akin to a plateau for overall numbers and retention. According to Val Van Brocklin , a federal prosecutor and contributor to PoliceOne.com , the yearly gain of female police officers has been less than half of 1 per- cent since 1971. Many sociologists and experts have studied this trend and come up with a myriad of rea- sons for the stall in numbers, such as biased recruit- ing, the lack of desire to balance work and home life and even an overall disinterest in law enforcement by younger generations of women. This may account for why women are not joining the ranks, but why are they leaving; especially when they are in demand more than ever?
Pictured (L): Flo Simon, FBINAA Washington Chapter Treasurer and graduate of FBI NA #211 pictured here in the newly renovated Hall of Honor at the FBI National Academy.
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