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.

1 comment:

Day said...

Another thing they should take into consideration is that an officer's entire job does not consist of using physical force against people. Force is not, and should not be the first response. There are so many other skills besides physical size and prowess that make for a good police officer-- skills such as interacting with people, and helping people calm down to the point that force is not required. Women and men who are not physically large may actually be better at these type of skills, because they may have more practice at them.

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