Tuesday, December 5

Getting Lost

Once many years ago I got lost. It was awful- let me tell you about it. It was during my fifth year of girls camp and I was a YCL (youth camp leader). For those of you out there unfamiliar with girl's camp all 16 and 17 year old girls are assigned to a different ward and act as assistant leaders for that ward, and for the whole stake. Part of my YCL duties included going on the second year hike with the 14 year old girls and a few leaders. This hike had to be 4 miles long and we had to cook a meal on the trail. We started out at 8AM and hiked for two miles, we stopped to cook breakfast then continued the hike. It was around the third mile that things started figuratively going downhill.

The person leading the hike was a very experienced woman who had spend decades hiking the trails in the region both by herself and with her husband. There was one problem though, she has really bad self esteem. So when the girls started feeling tired they started complaining, and the ill-advised cries of "we're lost!" came from one or two voiciferous girls who hoped that making such statements would get them back to camp faster. The other leaders, who were not familiar with the area (and oddly enough were all men), heard these cries and 'held a meeting' to determine the best course of action. The lady in charge insisted that the trail would get us back to camp, but was 'less sure' of how many more miles it was. Finally the woman caved and agreed that we should try to find a different route. This was the first of many such meetings.

Over the next several hours we broke every rule of hiking and getting lost that I have ever heard of. We did all of the following at least once:
Left the trail
Jumped a fence
Kept wandering even after we knew we were really lost
Split up (The female leader took off on her own at the behest of the other leaders)
Went in circles

Had I been older and more forthright I would have spoken up. As a youth leader I was given the task of keeping track of the younger girls while the real leaders had ther many meetings, no-one cared to hear my opinions. It was only when the diabetic girl in the group started to complain of feeling faint that the remaining leaders were finally persuaded to stay put and wait to be found. I gathered the rest of the girls and commenced building a fire, thinking that if we did end up having to stay the night we would need a fire, perhaps those looking for us would see the smoke and at the very least it kept us busy (and hey, who doesn't like building a fire?).

About a half hour after the fire got built we were found (40 yards or so from a road) and a truck was brought to drive us all back into camp. The other leader who had gone off by herself finally arrived at camp at about 8pm, very tired and moderately dehydrated.

I suppose there are a few morals to my story. The first is that they really mean it when they say what to do when lost- Stay Put, Don't leave the trail and Stay together. Had we done that from the get go we would have been found much much earlier. Then again, I wouldn't have this great story to tell. The second, even though you may not be a real leader, you should still speak up when the real leaders are violating common sense. Lastly, when you know you're not lost you know you're not lost, letting others believe you know less than you know isn't humility it is foolishness.

Friday, December 1


There was a news item that I found via Digg. The Reader's Digest Verision is this- A 200 lb 6th grader at a local middle school was tasered by a female school resource officer for attacking a female classmate. Many details about this are generally unknown (esp. to me), such as what level of force was attempted before bringing out the taser, the availability of other adults, the nature or severity of the fight between the students etc. One semi-important thing that is known, is that the boy was tasered twice, because after the first shock he attempted to continue the fight.

Whether or not the Taser was excessive force, or better or worse than a punch in the face was discussed at length in the comments on Digg, so I'm not too interested in discussing that. What I do want to take issue with is the number of comments to the effect of: "If this woman couldn't subdue the kid without resorting to a taser then she has no business being a cop." Comments such as these were frequently accompanied by assertions that the police force was so much more effective and less trigger-happy before women could become cops.

Part of the reason these comments bothered me is that my sister just recently graduated from the police academy and is now working as a baliff. Part of her training (and I am under the impression, all police training) included being tasered so that the police understand at least to some extent what it feels like, and to avoid potential tigger-happiness. Often they video tape each officer being tasered, and let them keep the video, a quick search on YouTube turns up a large number of videos like this. As a unrelated-yet-interesting aside, my sister showed us her video, and unlike all the videos I've seen of people being tasered she didn't make a sound. I'm not even sure that the small gasp I heard was in pain, or just a by-product of the involuntary muscle contractions. During the rest of the video all other other officers (mostly men) kept glancing at her sideways the newfound respect they had for her was obvious.

Back to the should women be cops issue: There is the obvious elephant in the room of statistical averages. While there are women like my sister who are bigger and tougher than the average man, women are more likely to be smaller, and physically weaker (at least in upper-body fighting strength) than men are. However, this does not mean that small women (and men) should not become cops just because they are likely to encounter someone bigger and stronger than they are. Just as there are statistical outliers among women, there are men who are bigger and tougher than not just the average man, but everybody. These large men are bigger than all cops, not just the female ones, and any cop would have to use a taser on these guys rather than attempt to subdue them with physical force.

Mostly I just wanted to get it off my chest that having a woman, even a small one as a resource officer in a middle school is not unreasonable. One would expect a trained adult woman to be larger and physically stronger than the vast majority of middle school students. That there are statistical outliers, like the 200 lb 11 year old involved in this incident, should not be used as an argument against employing women, or the small of stature in general, as police officers. Such an argument- taken all the way to its logical conclusion- would require hiring only giants as police. It would also negate the need for weapons because such large strong people would never need to use a taser instead of their own strength to gain control of a situation. And, oddly enough, I'm a big fan of a police force armed with tasers. Unlike a punch or whack with a nightstick the damage done by a taser does not vary with the cop using it, and can be more easily regulated than hand-to-hand physical altercations.