Warriors in High Heels

A crazed gunman walks into a building in Fort Hood, Texas, pulls out two handguns, and begins firing indiscriminately at everyone and everything. Two cops respond, one of whom is a female, and they both engage the subject as he leaves. Despite being shot in both legs, the female officer continued to fight on.

In Seattle, a pair of cops are seated in their patrol car reviewing reports. Suddenly, a car pulls next to their unit and begins firing at them, killing the male officer and wounding the female partner. She returns fire and summons help, even though she suffered a gunshot wound.

A former police officer from Minneapolis, working security at a church in Colorado, confronts a gunman who has already shot several people. She finds cover and waits for her opportunity to take him down. She identifies herself and engages the man, fatally shooting him.

These are but a few of the recent incidents in which our sisters in uniform have distinguished themselves. I shouldn't be amazed at their valor and professionalism, but being old school, I admit that I still harbor an old fashioned image of women and their role in society. It's wrong, I know. I've seen enough ladies in my time who could succeed at just about anything they put their mind to.

For example, I had a student in one of my classes at the FBI Academy who suffered a torn ACL, which is one of the four major ligaments in the knee. This injury occurred two weeks before graduation, and just days before the final firearms qualification. She was told that if she failed to qualify with her weapon, she would not graduate.

Amazingly, this young woman had a remarkable ability to focus on her goal. She wound up wrapping her knee and putting on a brace. On the day of the final qualification course, which included running from one yard marker to another, shooting from the prone, kneeling, and standing positions, she somehow managed to complete the course and qualify. Believe me when I tell you that I wasn't the only one whose jaw dropped at the final whistle. It was one of the more gutsy performances I've ever witnessed. She went on to graduate and receive her credentials as an FBI Agent.

I spent some time as a DT/PT Instructor at the academy. At one point, one of my female colleagues was pregnant, and as time went by and the baby grew, I thought that she would relinquish her duties on the mat and take on a more admin type role. Boy was I wrong. This woman continued with her normal teaching schedule, which included leading her class in PT and teaching defensive tactics. The curriculum included arrest techniques and ground fighting skills. I was reluctant to co-teach with her, thinking that I might injure her or the baby. She quickly disabused me of that notion, and rolled around on the ground with me as we demonstrated mount and guard positions, escapes, and weapon retention. What an inspiration. I've known guys who've pulled themselves from class when they had a headache. Talk about wimping out...

It's all illustrative of a couple of points that I continue to make throughout the course of many of the articles I write for this website and others. There are several reasons why these women performed as they did. The main one is they reverted to their training. That old, irrefutable axiom - the way you train is the way you fight - is clearly at work here. When things go sideways, when you find yourself in the midst of a critical situation, your only recourse is to summon what you've learned in training. It becomes your frame of reference. If you've trained for all of the possibilities, the what ifs, then you've more than likely embedded a memory of the incident and how to handle it somewhere in that big storage cabinet we call our brain.

This was never more evident than when Seattle Officer Britt Sweeny found herself involved in a shooting incident that killed her partner. Seattle Assistant Chief of Police described her actions as those of a ten year veteran. Inasmuch as she was fresh from the academy, her recent training was all she had to rely on. She not only returned fire after being wounded, but she got on the air and put out a description of the offender. That's pretty darn good for a rookie.

There's more to all of this than just training. There's something much deeper, something intangible that many of these female warriors exhibit. It's their spirit; it's their inner strength. It's self confidence in knowing that they possess the tools, knowledge, and the ability to do the job, regardless of any obstacles they may encounter. This warrior attitude imbues them with fortitude and strength, similar to that of a mother bear who protects her cubs from harm. They don't know the words, can't, won't, or fail. They attack with a frightful ferocity that I'm certain the bad guys never imagined might emanate from such an often tiny adversary.

Are there female cops who I absolutely would not work with? You bet, but I've also had my share of male officers who I wouldn't go through a door with either. Our sisters in blue have proven that they belong. Anyone who questions their skills and abilities doesn't have a clue. When they put that uniform on, get into that vest, and hitch up their duty belt, they rightly take their place on the front lines.

Sadly, there's also a downside to the emergence of these female paladins. As they increasingly interject themselves in more violent confrontations, they sometimes lose the battle. The latest figures show that 223 female police officers have been killed in the line of duty, their names inscribed on the wall at the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, DC. As I write this article, I'm aware that another name will soon be added to that list, that of Officer Tina Griswold, Lakewood, Washington PD. She and three of her colleagues were ambushed and murdered at a coffee shop. The devil does indeed walk among us.

If you're one of those who still question whether female cops belong on the job, I'm here to tell you that they most certainly do. They can perform the job as well as, or better than many of us. But here's the bottom line: it's not a question of gender with regard to who can do the job of policing. Rather, it's a question of heart. Who can devote their life to being a career warrior. That's right, not dedicate their life to a job. Being a cop is a vocation; a calling, if you will. You don't take the job simply because it pays well, or has great benefits. You become a cop because you believe in, and stand for, good over evil, right over wrong, principle over expediency. If you're on the job for any other reason, you're not in it to win it.

Stay safe, brothers and sisters.