3 safety concerns female cops have (and how to address them)
Some of the primary concerns of women crimefighters include controlling larger subjects, avoiding a “police brutality” accusation and finding realistic training programs
No matter where we travel, in our “Winning Mind for Women” training series there is frequent discussion among the women in law enforcement who are in attendance about the primary concerns of women crimefighters. Some of these concerns include controlling larger subjects, avoiding a “police brutality” accusation and finding realistic training programs. Let’s examine each.
1. The 350 Pound Man in the Alley
In the 1970s — as women entered the law enforcement profession on “equal footing” with men — one of the primary concerns was that a woman would be unable to control a large, violent offender. In fact, this myth gave some police agencies an out when it came to hiring women (and smaller men). Countless women (myself included) have been asked some version of the question: “What are you going to do when you’re alone in an alley and a 350 pound man attacks you?”
What am I going to do? The same thing any male officer is going to do: use every resource available to get control of my attacker by whatever means reasonable and necessary.
Fast forward 40 years and proper subject-control techniques are still an issue for law enforcement. Sergeant Joseph “Little Joe” Fererra is an internationally acclaimed law enforcement trainer and one of our profession’s most renowned experts in the area of tactics for the smaller officer.
According to Fererra, there are no magic techniques for any police officer to get control of an uncooperative subject, regardless of the officer’s gender. The use of force against a citizen never looks pretty, and while an offender attacking a cop has no rules to follow, the cop has plenty. This is why Sergeant Ferrera trains officers that when they are in a physical altercation with a subject, they must be fast, fluid and dominating.
This is excellent advice for women officers.
Confidence is key — there can be no hesitation. As police and military trainer Hank Hayes teaches, “Fight like a raccoon in a dumpster.”
In other words, fight with all you’ve got. Their goal is to hurt you — your goal is to win.
2. “I Don’t Want to End Up on CNN!”
We’re now policing in the age of YouTube. No matter what we do, it’s likely to end up on social media, cable news or the front page of the Drudge Report — often within minutes. Fererra calls this “the witness factor.”
This is where fast, fluid and dominating is key to your success. Think about it — what looks worse to the general public: a fast “shock and awe” technique that gets the offender under control immediately or multiple officers at half speed spending seven or eight minutes trying to arrest the bad guy without successfully controlling him?
Smaller officers need to remember that if you’re alone and trying to control a violent offender, you must go at it 100 percent, because if you try and fail, you’re in even more danger. It also bears repeating that force never looks pretty, so when a crowd gathers and the cell phones start recording, get control quickly and do what you need to do.
If the offender (or anyone else) needs medical attention, make it happen. If he doesn’t need to be seen by the medics, get the bad guy to the station immediately. Make sure your cameras continue to roll, consider taking photos of the crowd, clear the scene as soon as possible and notify your bosses immediately.
A police brutality claim that ends up on Twitter can often be immediately eradicated by a good press release combined with the use of the department’s own social media postings, preferably with video and photos.
As Ferrara said, sometimes cops spend so much time trying to not get on CNN that they end up on CNN. When we see the cell phones come out, we often stop using basic control techniques — even voice control and command presence. As Chief JW Harris stated, “If we don’t get control quickly we may end up losing control and looking ‘brutal’ to the public.”
This is where training comes in.
3. “Skillset Plus Mindset”
The biggest frustration expressed by female cops in our classes is that they don’t feel they’re getting the training necessary to help them be successful in physical confrontations. My answer to that is, first and foremost, you must train on your own! Never depend on your police agency to make sure you have every skill and tool you might need to stay alive, and that includes physical conditioning.
Your ability to win is up to you. Start by taking a look at your own level of fitness. If you want to learn to be a better fighter, get involved in fitness activities that will improve your skill set. Ferrara recommends Cross Fit, P90X, martial arts — any high output activity that incorporates fluid movements. Find a good class to supplement your knowledge and help you gain confidence — such as Kevin Dillion’s L.O.C.K.U.P.
When you’re participating in your own department’s training, make sure you’re not just practicing techniques on another female of the same size. Ferrara has his students learn the skill on a same-sized person, but makes sure they work with various people to learn the application.
Knowing the law and knowing your department’s policies should also be a big part of your tactical training. When you are trying to control a violent subject, you must be confident in your own skills and abilities. No one is expecting you to be MMA star Rhonda Rousey. Remember, like cops, professional fighters have rules they have to follow. The bad guys have no rules. We are policing in a society where we’re more likely to be attacked, and we have to be ready, male or female. Learn to fight hard, fast and successfully. Your co-workers, your family and your community are depending on you, so don’t let them — and yourself — down.
Author’s Note: Special thanks to Sergeant “Little Joe” Fererra, who continues to educate and inspire me. If you’d like more information about Joe’s training and philosophies, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Women Officers