In 2007 I authored an article for Officer.Com titled The Brotherhood of Law Enforcement (linked below). I wrote it after one of those crazy weekends on patrol that we all live for. Lots of fast driving, foot pursuits and total chaos; it was my team's favorite way to make those 12 hour shifts fly by. I originally wrote it under a pseudonym Tami Jones, because I wasn't sure how my department would react, but what the heck, I'm retired now! Ironically, I received great email feedback about that article, and I encouraged readers to forward it on to a fellow brother or sister, which many did.
The basic premise of the article was that while there are some jerks in this profession, most of the time we all get along pretty well, just like any big, slightly dysfunctional but good-hearted family. Three years and an awful lot of research later, I continue to emphasize The Brotherhood in my female officer classes. The reaction is gratifying to say the least, women cops really do like and appreciate most of the guys they work with. But I want to encourage women to really take the time to study and get to know their male counterparts and what makes then tick.
The Male Brain
Dr. Louann Brizendine wrote a best seller in 2006 titled The Female Brain. It is still one of my favorite go-to research manuals, and besides, it's just a fun book to read as a parent, partner, co-worker, or supervisor. In 2010 she published a follow up book, The Male Brain. The pre-publication reviews of the book stated that compared to women, men are basically a "stripped down, reproductive, problem-solving machine." (my teaching partner and husband, Dave Smith, takes great pride in this gender description)
Dr. Brizendine is a wife, the mother of a son, and a scientist and practitioner. Like me, she loves, works with, admires and studies men as well as women. For example, as Dr. Brizendine states that men like to solve problems, and if we don't give them the opportunity to do so, they may feel like a failure. As females in a male-dominated profession, we are obligated to understand how men think, and more importantly, if we are trainers, supervisors or managers of men, we need to learn what we can do to help make them better, safer cops. Learn about the brain function differences between men and women and apply them to your work life. View those guys you work with as science projects, and see if you can figure them out. If nothing else, it will make your shift go faster.
Appreciate The Guys; Don't Try to Be One.
I know so many women cops who say I am just one of the guys. I don't know how to tell you gals this, but, um, well, you're not. I don't care how macho you look or act (trust me, I used to have shorter hair and I still have a deeper voice than most men, and my language would make most guys under thirty blush profusely; I understand macho) you can't pretend you're just like a man, nor should you.
As I've talked about before (and will no doubt talk about in the future) men and women have different brains, bodies, and other physiological and psychological differences that affect the way we perform police work. We've also been socialized differently. In the 1970s, when women first began to infiltrate the ranks of regular patrol work, one of the big concerns was the chivalry factor. In other words, were men so ingrained to be polite to and protective of women that they would waste time or even get injured trying to be chivalrous toward their new female partners? After a few decades of ironing out the kinks, it turns out that we all work pretty well together, but I still see women who get offended when a fellow (male) cop tries to be helpful, and I still see men who struggle with should-I-open-the-door-for-her-or-not on the job. Don't over-think this stuff. Be polite and professional towards each other; don't get caught up in gender roles and don’t try to be someone you aren't. All women are not alike and neither are all men, but each sex has inherent differences that should be appreciated and utilized to benefit the agency and the community.
The Sensitive Generation.
The male youngsters we call Generation Y and The Millennials have been primarily raised by women, taught by women, and have generally been socialized to be more sensitive. While empathy and compassion are wonderful traits in human beings in general, and cops in particular, being overly sensitive can cause a young cop big problems. These are the guys who were told that competition is bad (everyone gets a trophy because everyone is a winner), we are all special, and conflict is counter-productive. At the same time, their sisters were being taught you can be anything you want to be but allowances will be made.
We're now finding out that as adults, these kids, both male and female, may have some difficulty adjusting to the para-military, life is not fair world of law enforcement. Women need to understand not just gender differences, but generational and social differences and how all of this relates to good police work. Look, when an old-timer like me says to one of you rookies Man Up, Kid, I'm not being sexist. Man Up (or if you're in the West, Cowboy Up) is a non gender-specific term that can be directed at either sex, and it basically means quit being a baby and go be a cop. As women, we need to help our brothers navigate the often-confusing world of male/female roles in and out of the workplace. I've generally found men to be pretty straightforward, and when we clue them in we also make it easier on ourselves.
Don't Dis' Your Sisters.
I know plenty of female cops who would rather work with all men than work with (or train, supervise or manage) other women. I understand that, but I certainly don't agree with it. Men are undoubtedly more what you see is what you get than women are. Women's relationships tend to be more complicated, even with our co-workers. In the training environment, we often psych ourselves out over simple deficiencies.
There are reasons for all of these differences, so in addition to studying men, women also need to study themselves. Know how and why the female brain is different; know how we communicate most effectively; how we deal with risk; how we perform under stress. Make sure you're not operating under the old queen bee syndrome. As female cops, we spend so much time trying to get along in a mostly male world that once we have it figured out for ourselves, we can be pretty intolerant of those who are still struggling. Dr. Lillian Glass, author of the book Toxic People discovered that 40% of women who had been bullied in the work place had been victimized by other women. This is not acceptable in any profession! We need to reach out not only to our brothers, but to each other. We're a family, remember? A big, weird, wonderful group of brothers and sisters who need each other in order to not just survive, but to thrive in this adventure we've chosen as a career.