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Women in Law Enforcement continued from page 10
wellness programs extend to the family members of officers as well. The same stress which directly impacts officers will inevitably have an indirect impact on that officer’s family. Often times, women in law enforcement are also the care- taker of children at home and must balance both stressful responsibilities. If a woman feels things are good at home, she can focus on her job with fewer distractions, which increases productivity and decreases accidents. Conversely, if a woman feels respected and supported in the work place she can focus on and enjoy her children and/or spouse and avoid stress. Supervisors need to be trained to recognize when the life-work balance is skewed and address any concerns in a time- ly manner. Those who are working too many hours need to be forced to take time off or at least ensure they are not working past the point of maintaining a safe and healthy environment. This will keep employees, especially women from becoming mired in the vicious cycle of stress. Police officers are an invaluable resource and it is imperative they are kept healthy in order to keep the community safe. Women, with their unique skill sets bring more diversity, compas- sion and capability to an already noble profession. However, sometimes this noble profession can take a toll on an officer’s wellness and cause them to break. A broken officer is no good to society or themselves. A female officer cannot nurture, befriend and tend her community or her family if she is broken and ignoring the signs for fear of being labeled as weak. Unfortunately, the broken female officer will be forced to choose between work, family and more often than not work is the first thing to go. A law enforcement agency which identifies the unique attributes women bring to law enforcement and makes a commitment to en- hance the emotional, physical and occupational wellness of its female employees will be able to recruit, retain and promote for years to come. References American Psychological Association. 2017. Gender and Stress. Retrieved from apa.org. Collier, Lorna. 2018. How Men and Women Deal with Stress. Healthgrades Retrieved from HealthgradesINC.com Gregoire, Carolyn. December 22, 2014. Ten Ways Stress Affects Women’s Health. HuffPost Retrieved from huffingtonpost.com. Harrington, Penny and Moore, Margaret. Date Unknown. National Center for Women and Policing. Retrieved from Womanandpolicing.com. Sangberg, Elizabeth Lang; Sole, Corina Brito; Luna Morrozoff Andrea and McFadden, Shannon. September 2010. A Guide to Occupational Health and Safety for Law Enforcement. Executives Bureau of Justice PERF. Retrieved from policeforum.org Van Brocklin,Val. October 23, 2013. Cop Gumbo Why Aren’t There More Women in Policework? Retrieved from PoliceOne.com. Wells, Sandra and Sowers, Betty Alt. 2005. Police Women: Life with the Badge. Greenwood Publishing Group
out of shape and lacking in energy, which does not bode well for the physically demanding job of police work. To compound issues, many women state they are unable to find time to exercise or plan healthy meals due to balancing the needs of children, home responsibilities and work; which starts a vicious cycle of stress. THE TWEAK Law enforcement agencies could help com- bat this vicious cycle and improve the physical wellness of women by incorporating and encour- aging a physical fitness and nutrition regime. Women are more apt to work out if they are en- couraged and have guidance. Partnering with a local gym or bringing in personal trainers to get women (and of course men) started on an appro- priate diet and exercise routine would be the first step to improved physical wellness. Additionally, if women are allowed to exercise on duty, even a couple of hours a week, they would be able to work it into their busy schedules without find- ing excuses at home to avoid it. Even two hours a week helps develop positive habits which will spill over into other areas of their life and work as an additional stress reliever. Some more creative tweaks would be the creation of friendly compe- titions for weight loss or training for 5k races as a group. Since women are more prone to group socialization this would be an ideal program. Obviously, any exercise and nutrition pro- gram would have to be approved by each indi- vidual agency and it is understood many agen- cies are afraid to adopt them due to unforeseen liability, related to injury. If this is the case with an agency, it is incumbent upon the supervisors to educate their staff on the importance of prop- er exercise and nutrition and highly encourage them to work out at home. A motivated supervi- sor or law enforcement leader could coordinate voluntary walks, runs or yoga sessions off duty, which encourages physical fitness as well as so- cialization. Even though the workouts are not on duty, it will still help develop a positive, support- ive and healthy culture within the agency; which is highly attractive to female officers. OCCUPATIONAL WELLNESS Occupational Wellness can be viewed from a couple of perspectives. The most obvious one includes the lawful requirement for a law en- forcement agency to provide a safe working envi- ronment for all employees. This usually includes the policies regarding handling of safety equip- ment, exposure to hazardous chemicals, treat- ment and prevention of on duty injuries and a litany of other health and safety standards. Most agencies cover this area fairly well, and where they may falter, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) usually fills the gap.
The area of occupational wellness that is often overlooked is the placement and mainte- nance of an employee in an occupational envi- ronment adapted to his or her physiological and psychological capabilities. In other words, law enforcement agencies must make sure they are investing in the emotional and physical wellness of their staff as well as: • Make a work environment conducive to personal growth and succession planning. • Maintain an environment with high morale and productivity. • Recognize the impacts of policing on the entire family as well as the employee. One of the common complaints of many women in law enforcement is the lack of support and mentoring over the course of their career. Un- fortunately, the failure to mentor female leaders is an oversight by both male and female leaders. Some men may feel unequipped or uncomfortable about mentoring a female and the only time they partner up with them may be during their initial training. In some cases, females also feel they lack networking opportunities after hours with their male counterparts because of family responsibili- ties. This also prevents them from bonding with their male partners and developing relationships which may benefit them in the workplace. Females may fail to mentor other females due to jealousy and internal competition. Since their overall num- bers are small, women often compete for the same positions and are not always supportive of each other as a result. In the book P olice Women: Life with the Badge , the authors interview several fe- male officers throughout the United States and ask them about their relationship with other females. Many stated they received little support from high ranking females due to jealousy. They indicated there was not an “old boy network” for females like there was for males. Regardless of why, the lack of mentorship and development of females in the ranks creates low morale and is a lack of invest- ment in vital personnel. THE TWEAK The obvious tweak for occupational well- ness is to ensure a strong mentoring program is developed and continually monitored for suc- cess. Investment in the personal growth and ad- vancement of employees is the best way to set up people and the agency for success. Employees who feel supported and empowered are far more creative, loyal and efficient. Special attention must be given to the mentoring of women at all levels. Likewise, women at all ranks need to learn how to be supportive of one another rather than focus on their own advancement. In addition to a strong mentoring program, law enforcement agencies need to make sure
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