Self-described male deputies expressed disdain for their female colleagues in an online forum hosted by Digital Cities. The forum invited reaction to Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca’s plans to promote female deputies into patrol positions. The Association for Los Angeles Sheriffs threatened to sue the Sheriff’s department and posted a linked to Digital City’s forum on its Web site, prompting outraged complaints from its members.
While some of the messages were civil in tone, many more included hostile and lewd descriptions of female deputies and asserted that women are not welcome in the field of policing. A self-described man using the code name “bandit” wrote, “How come these broads can’t stick with the chick jobs and stop complicating everything? It was a horrible mistake for men to ever allow chicks on the job.”
While some blamed the comments on a small minority and said they didn’t reflect the department as a whole, others including attorney Steven Rottman believed the comments reflect the attitudes of many. Rottman, who has represented several female deputies in sexual harassment complaints, called the forum “a window into the soul of the department.”
Past complaints filed against the department have been plentiful. Deputy Carmen Higuchi’s male colleagues left a dildo on her patrol car. Training Officer Pamela-Lee Carey found a picture of a man masturbating in the glove compartment of her car. Jamila Bayti alleges that her male colleagues repeatedly posted lewd pictures of women in her presence and that she was ridiculed for rejecting a co-worker’s sexual advances. Numerous women have reported lesbian-baiting.
The Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Center for Women and Policing is directed by former Portland, Oregon police chief Penny Harrington. Harrington believes that the online forum “illustrates one of the age-old problems of moving women into the mainstream of policing. Anything done to promote women is protested by the union as being unfair to men.” Harrington also noted that lewd and sexually-based attacks on female offices are common and that men typically use such attacks as “a male-bonding weapon against the women.”
Sheriff Baca has vowed to continue fighting to increase the number of women in high-level, high-paying jobs within the department.