Katherine Spillar, Executive Director of the Feminist Majority Foundation, will speak at the City Club of Cleveland at 12 PM EST tomorrow, July 24, on how adding equal numbers of women to police departments nationwide is critical to reducing incidents of police violence and enhancing the ability of police to improve relations with the communities they serve. A live stream will be available here.
Studies over the past 40 years both in the U.S. and internationally show that women officers are less authoritarian and use force less often than their male counterparts, possess better communication skills, and are better at defusing potentially violent confrontations. As a result, women police are less likely than male officers to become involved in use of excessive force and deadly force. These studies also show, however, that women police officers perform the job of policing equally as well as men and are not reluctant to use force when necessary.
In the wake of unarmed Black teen Michael Brown‘s shooting death at the hands of a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri nearly a year ago, a nationwide movement calling for police accountability and an end to police brutality has mounted across the nation. Brown’s death is no outlier; since his August 9, 2014 shooting, countless other people of color, primarily African-Americans, have died in altercations with police. 43-year-old Eric Garner died while being held in a choke-hold by police in Staten Island; 25-year-old Freddie Gray fell into a coma with a severed spine after being transported in a police van and later died; 12-year-old Tamir Rice was fatally shot in Cleveland.
Despite a national conversation that can center on male victims of police violence, women and girls, too, suffer frequently from various forms of victimization during encounters with police. Officers like Daniel Holtzclaw using their authority to rape women civilians, and girls at a public pool in Texas were assaulted by police with no cause. 16-year-old Jessie Hernandez was shot in Denver, and 28-year-old Sandra Bland’s death in a holding cell began being investigated as a murder this week.
The Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Center for Women in Policing has long supported female officers and efforts to diversify police departments across the country. In the midst of a national conversation about police brutality, that work could mean the difference between life and death for those who interact with police.