Female Cops are Tough and Dependable

police_carsI was indifferent to female cop partners. The same went for race. As far as I was concerned, we all wore “blue.” My memory of three decades in law enforcement, recalls more comfort working with females. As a caveat to this conversation, I never once dated a co-worker. I witnessed a great deal of “drama” when partners dated, and I wanted to avoid the conflict.

I recently spoke with a retired female detective supervisor. We had a discussion on the proficiency of female cops and my preference. As she said, despite the obvious positive attributes, she was of the opinion that many females felt they had to work harder for acceptance by their male counterparts. In a male dominated field, in which females comprise only 12% of the law enforcement community, I would not argue with that observation. They are in the minority and I could not begin to imagine the intimidation factor to “prove” your competency on a daily basis.

Along the lines of observational techniques, the females were the protector of the family. They had to rely upon their observation skills for survival. Men are physically stronger and were the hunters in the tribal days. Men relied upon endurance and strength for survival. Sometimes, testosterone has its limits and can add to a masculinity contest. My muscles are bigger and I can talk louder than you can.

According to Shelley Taylor, Ph.D., a psychology professor and her colleagues at UCLA, the introduction of stress stimuli to a female, can evoke a behavioral response called “tend and befriend.” After reviewing studies conducted over the past 30 years, the study concluded that females’ physical aggression and fear related behaviors are less intense and more “cerebral.” Despite males and females sharing the same limbic response for fight, freeze, or flight, females will rely less upon this response than their male counterparts.

Hang with me, as I will discuss some wonky science concepts going forward. Using FMRI scans of the brain, generalizations were concluded based upon these scans in response to stimuli. Each of these results can be argued with contradictory findings. As such, I would look at these as generalizations and not hard and fast rules.

Women have higher communication skills and as such, they were often able to diffuse volatile situations using empathy and communication. Due to their higher verbal skills and patience, I found females were more accomplished interviewers. Their softer approach was more appealing to obtain necessary information not just from suspects, but witnesses traumatized by crime. Due to higher empathy, they are more capable to read emotions and identify nonverbal behaviors leading to a physical confrontation. I was always a big believer in talking my way out of trouble as opposed to fighting. My face may not have been pretty, but it was all I had. Physical confrontations usually led to a trip to emergency room for the suspect or officer and a lot of paper work.

Studies have concluded that females have four times as many brain cells connecting the right and left side of their brain. Men on the other hand are left-brain dominant and as a result, solve one problem one-step at a time. Women are more efficient accessing both sides of their brain. Therefore, women tend to be more successful in approaching multiple problems, while also facing a multiple stimulated environment. This translates to managing chaos. Look at any multi-tasking working mother.

Dr. Peter McLeod, Oxford University professor, studied the boys and girls behavior of successfully completing a hedge maze. This was a small sample group. Boys were more likely to successfully complete the maze, due to their spatial competence and “big picture” recognition. This is due to a larger right brain cortex. Due to a higher degree of verbal reasoning in the left-brain and interconnectivity between the two sides of the brain, the girls relied more on individual details for charting their navigation. In this exercise, boys were able to complete the maze with more efficiency. Perhaps this is why men are more reluctant to stop for directions, but in police work, as independent determination can be useful, it is also vitally important to rely on teamwork.

In watching the Sherlock Holmes CBS show Elementary, Dr. Joan Watson is quite adept at the deductive powers obtained from observation. Despite her being the understudy of Sherlock, science backs up the observational abilities of the female gender. Women are more likely to spot which of a group of objects has been moved to a new position (the spot the difference task).

Women are said to be better at distinguishing between the fleeting expressions that cross our faces every day. According to Professor Simon Baron-Cohen at the Autism Research Centre, Cambridge University, this is because empathy comes naturally to women, while men are wired to understand how things work. On average, women are better empathizers. They possess a higher degree of accurately guessing other people’s emotions and responding appropriately. They would be more likely to comfort you in a time of crisis.

On the wall of the Law Enforcement Memorial, there are 257 female law enforcement officers, who have lost their lives protecting society. I once had a supervisor tell me when considering the proficiency of an officer – would you want them behind you going through a door, or if you were a victim of a homicide, would you want them leading the investigation to bring your killer to justice. I never questioned the female cop’s ability.

Therefore, I wanted to thank Patti, Lonetta, Mary (times 2), Christina, Erin and all the other female and male officers for watching my back and keeping me safe.

I modeled my fictitious character, Detective Kate Alexander as an amalgam of the females that I had the privilege to work with. http://www.amazon.com/The-Blue-Monster-ebook/dp/B0054H8TMA/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1312641741&sr=1-1

To find out more about observation and nonverbal behavior, take a look at Face 2 Face- Observation, Interviewing and Rapport Building Skills: an Ex-Secret Service Agent’s Guide: http://www.amazon.com/Face-2-ebook/dp/B009991BII/ref=sr_1_6?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1354630000&sr=1-6

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9 Responses to Female Cops are Tough and Dependable

  1. Mike,

    This is a very interesting blog, and from my personal experience as an LAPD officer, I think it’s quite accurate. There are exceptions to any rule, but overall, I’ve seen these generalizations play out time and time again.

    I’m glad you posted the link for me. I’m putting your book on my ‘to-be-read’ list.

    • mike says:

      Thank you for sharing your “Real World” experience. I agree completely with your comment. These are generalizations and there are exceptions. I downloaded A Dozen Deadly Roses last week. I love the cover art, and I too am looking forward to reading a highly reviewed book.

      Cheers, Mike

  2. Hi Mike.
    I enjoyed your post and I am keen to track the source of the research that revealed that women “possess a higher degree of accurately guessing other people’s emotions and responding appropriately”. Can you point me in the right direction please?
    Thanks again.

    • mike says:

      Hi Cliff, Thank you for reading the post. Some of the best research on topic comes from the UK. I have included the links to research in this area. I should have included that with the original post and thank you for asking for the sourcing. The exact quote which comes from the BBC is noted with an asterisk. Thanks for keeping me on my toes! Cheers, Mike

      BBC –

      Women are said to be better at distinguishing between the fleeting expressions that cross our faces every day. According to Professor Simon Baron-Cohen at the Autism Research Centre, Cambridge University, this is because empathy comes naturally to women while men are wired to understand how things work.

      **On average women are empathisers. “They are better at accurately guessing other people’s emotions and responding appropriately.”They would be more likely to comfort you in a time of crisis.


      Dr. Daniel Goleman – Author of Emotional Intelligence.

      Women tend to be better at emotional empathy than men, in general. This kind of empathy fosters rapport and chemistry. People who excel in emotional empathy make good counselors, teachers, and group leaders because of this ability to sense in the moment how others are reacting.


      4 Keys to Emotional IQ
      • Self-awareness – You recognize your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior, know your strengths and weaknesses, and have self-confidence.
      • Self-management – You’re able to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, manage your emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances.
      • Social awareness – You can understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people, pick up on emotional cues, feel comfortable socially, and recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization.
      • Relationship management – You know how to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict.

  3. Patti Moon says:

    What an interesting and profound article. I cannot relate working with many other women because I chose law enforcement as my life’s work and that is inherently a male field. However, the women in law enforcement that I chose to align with were strong, courageous and dedicated. Such as Lonetta that you mentioned. I was fortunate to work alongside male officers that were supportive and encouraging. Working alongside you, Mike, was a great experience. Through the serious and dangerous times and the light hearted and humorous times when we were just trying to battle the boredom.
    I very much enjoying reading your novels. Entertaining and realistic, I recognize so many of the characters you have created.
    Keep writing Mike.
    You will always be my brother.

    • mike says:

      Patti, Thank you for kind comment. It was a great ride and a lot of fun. I am glad you and the others had my back. Cheers, Mike

  4. Andrea says:

    Hello, Mike!

    Your experience working with women sounds far more positive than mine. I’ve found them to be catty, duplicitous, gossipy, and frivolous. However, I think maybe the job itself matters. You were in jobs in which people’s lives are at stake, and maybe the women you worked with rose to the challenge. In factory work, no one’s life is at stake, people can behave badly and get away with it, and low -grade malice can be used to alleviate boredom. Given a choice, I’d work with men, but it’s good to hear that female behavior is better when it matters most.


    • mike says:

      When the stakes are increased, we tend to pull together and jealousies are put aside. That goes for any crises. However, there is a plenty of downtime in law enforcement. Boredom can be the devil’s playground. Andrea, I would say that females put together can challenge the dynamics of interpersonal relationships.

      Cheers, Mike

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