The recent spate of violence involving police shootings and the murder of five officers in Dallas during a peaceful protest has left authorities scrambling to find a solution. While some police departments around the country are changing training tactics and implementing tools like body cameras, there seems to be a glaring potential for decreasing police brutality that is too often overlooked.
Law enforcement, as reported by the Washington Post, is one of the industries with the least gender diversity. Policing remains an overwhelmingly male-dominated profession — women make up only 12 percent of the overall police force — and many have pointed out that the solution to curbing police brutality lies in recruiting more female police officers.
Research backs this up. One study from the 1990s indicated that women officers have a distinctly different style of policing than their male counterparts. They are "less aggressive" in their handling of tough situations and are more likely to "de-escalate potentially violent encounters," they respond better to rape victims and battered women, score lower on "'sadism' scale measures than men," and are "less likely to be guilty of unprofessional conduct."
But what explains women's low participation in law enforcement? Among the reasons Katherine Spillar, executive director at the Feminist Majority Foundation, cited in a Washington Post article were "misguided recruiting practices, ongoing discriminatory hiring processes and hostile work places."
And though policing may bring to mind high-speed car chases and dangerous hostage situations, in reality, "80... to 95 percent of police work involves nonviolent, service-related activities and interactions with people in the community to solve problems," Spillar wrote, "the kind of policing that appeals to women."
Though it is obvious that recruiting more female officers would not spell the end of police brutality entirely — there are plenty of systemic issues in police departments that bear addressing — it is worth noting that its potential to decrease violence in high-risk situations should be a part of the solution.
Cover images via Rena Schild / Shutterstock.com and Tom Zubak/NBC.