Police Officers // Kaitlyn M. Bonzo, B.A.
Image from: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4f/United_States_Air_Force_Security_Forces_Police_Patch.jpeg
Police officers. Everyone seems to have their own opinion of them. Some public option views police officers as noble, while others view the police as a force of evil. We all have some sort of gut reaction when opinions are formed about the police. We all know or have experienced stories about the police and how they treated us or those we know. I have my own personal gut reactions and as I reflect on them, they are formed out of the fact that I am a female. Based on my understanding, female police officers make up far fewer of the overall police force compared to men.
With this information, I could discuss gender equality in the police force; however, I would rather discuss other thoughts concerning the police. Almost all of my encounters with police officers in the civilian capacity have been with male police officers. Overall, I feel that I have been respected as a human and as a female. Unfortunately, I know far too many people who are close to me who have had negative reactions from the police based on their race and sex. Allow me to elaborate with an example from a friend. Have you ever been pulled over late at night in a dark location, only to be accused of being "booty call" by the male police officer?
Hearing my friend recount this event, and hearing the fear in her voice and seeing her panicked facial expression made me concerned for my own safety while being out at night. Is this not ironic, that some women do not feel safe alone at night, and the very force that is intended to protect them causes them to feel further victimized? I am aware that this is a single case; however, this is not the only instance that has been recounted to me concerning police officers making females fear for their safety. How can we teach men that the majority women who are out at night are not prostitutes?
How can I feel safe as a female last at night when the very force that is intended to protect me, might cause me to be further victimized? I think we would all agree that when we see or hear of police officers behaving in this manner, we instantly believe the worst of them as a whole. It is hard for civilians to trust a police force that has repeatedly used their power to victimize innocent civilians. It is upsetting when we hear that police officers victimize women. On a small level my hope is that this post will provoke us to think about how civilians can teach police officers how to respect humanity and women.
Police officers, please consider how you can become your own advocates and change based on how you are perceived by the people that you serve and protect. We can easily locate stories that have made the news accusing police officers of violating their code of conduct. There is no shortage of reports indicating that police officers have sexually assaulted civilians. This fear that my friend and I have due to her encounter with an unethical and violating police officer is a fear based out of a violation of trust and safety as humans who expect to be protected by police officers.
I would be willing to predict that there is a significant civilian population that fears the police as a whole for their lack of ethical conduct. To elaborate, I would also be willing to vouch that many women fear the police due to the possibility that they could be sexually assaulted. In general, females are physically weaker in comparison to most men and I wonder if male police officers realize that their gender, status, and physical characteristics automatically put most females in an inferior position. This is a systematic, gender hierarchy that needs to change with regards to protecting women.
I know from experience working with survivors of sexual assault by police, that survivor's reports are often not taken seriously by police officers. This adds an additional layer of mistrust that some women may have towards police officers. How is this impacting the way that women and girls view male police officers? Police officers, what can be done to change how civilians view you and the generally noble work that you do?