Some of you may have read the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, by John Gray or the new book now out Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps, by Barbara and Allan Pease. Interestingly the Peases traveled the world for three years collecting findings of new research on the brain, evolutionary biology and social changes to provide a scientific explanation of why men and women are the way they are. The book says "Men and Women are different. Not better or worse--different. Just about the only thing they have in common is that they belong to the same species." "Men can never find a pair of socks, but their CDs are in alphabetical order. Women can always find the missing set of car keys but rarely the most direct route to their destination." But how does this relate to the tactical differences between male and female officers? How do we take this info and get down to the real stuff? From what I have read, as well as from a Calibre Press session I went to at the International Association of Women Police Conference in Denver, there appear to be significant police-related differences between men and women. And it is likely in our best interest as police officers to capitalize on the differences and use them to our advantage. While on the other side, if the differences cause challenges, change our method of training to accommodate the differences. Here are some examples:
- Sheer size: the smaller size of a woman allows for better use of cover and concealment. They are more flexible and allow for more options during movement or cover. However, women have smaller hands than men and may have difficulty with the same size firearm. Suck it up and get her a smaller firearm. Don't set her up for failure the minute she hits the line. Give her the equipment she needs to do the job and be successful, instead of giving her a huge gun and saying "I told you she couldn't cut it."
- Women have better vision in low light, better peripheral vision and better hearing. They can hear a broader range of sound frequencies and tones in the human voice. This is designed to keep track of children--you know, the mother thing. However, men have an advantage as women tend to see things far away and are less likely to see things right in front of us. Men see what's right in front of them. This is a tactical mistake that should be overcome with some gender-specific training.
- Women are better at multitasking; however, we have to watch out that we don't do three things with mediocre skill rather than one thing well. Everything in policing must be done to the highest quality, whether it is report writing, interviewing or investigating.
- Men have a bigger brain. Sorry, ladies--it's true. But women have more nerve cells connecting the right and left brain, which allows us the ability to go back and forth and transfer data from the creative side to the computational side of our brains, matching up our verbal side with our visual, creative side a lot faster. The thinking-to-the-saying happens faster. The Calibre Press session described it as the women having a "superhighway" between the two sides of the brain, and the men having a "dirt road"--their words, not mine, don't shoot the messenger. This allows for quicker interpretation and verbalization of what we see, and is a good trait to have as an officer.
- Women can store in their minds all kinds of random information. Do you ever remember your wife remembering--and reminding you--of every detail of every little fight you've ever had, and what it was about? Yes, we pay attention to detail. This makes us potentially good analysts and good at looking at a variety of aspects of a crime, and remembering them.
- Women are less easy to anger. The more stressful a situation gets, the more calm we get. Anger is more likely to come to a male officer than a female officer (remember, this is generalizing from a biological perspective--I've seen loads of women go on spin cycle and tons of men carry on as if nothing happened). However, women tend to hesitate, rather than act with aggression. Female officers need to be trained to get through that. It is extremely important in tactical situations. It could be a matter of life or death.
There are many tactical differences between men and women in policing. I've just touched on a few. Of course, each individual is different, and these are just generalized discussions. However, if you recognize some of these issues in the men or women you are training, it would be in your best interest to capitalize on their strengths and provide training to address the weaknesses. Remember, it is important to provide training to fit the individual, rather than treat all officers the same. There may be training required for smaller officers, be them male or female, due to sheer size. There could be different training needed for passive officers as opposed to your more aggressive officers. The business world has identified specific training to meet the needs of their staff in order to make them as successful as possible. They have to--their profits depend on it. So, why doesn't policing? It should--sometimes lives depend on it. One day, that life may be yours. Think about it.