Women need to remain in policing, not be forced out! 

Behind blue doors: Cisgender female police officers' experiences of psychological stress and mental health



 

FULL
REPORT

This study explored Canadian female police officers' experiences of psychological stress and the overall impacts on mental health. The results suggested that cisgender female police officers’ psychological stress experiences occurred due to complex and compounding interactions between various system levels, each containing intricate entities of its own.

 

While there have been advancements in promoting mental health and encouraging help-seeking within policing organizations, mental health stigma remains a barrier to help-seeking and recovery. The study identified an overall lack of support and gender-based discrimination and harassment as negatively impacting mental health. Conversely, the study identified shared experience could moderate these factors and provide a buffer against psychological stress and decreased mental health by providing space for women to access support and feel heard. 

De-escalation &
use of force

Research shows that female police officers are less likely to use force, rather they rely on communication and de-escalation techniques; overall, they have fewer allegations of excessive force (Deveau, 2021; Rabe-Hemp & Schuck, 2007; Schuck & Rabe-Hemp, 2005). Yet, research has shown no difference in assaultive behaviours toward female officers compared to male officers, except when responding to calls involving domestic violence, as female officers are assaulted more than their male coworkers (Rabe-Hemp & Schuck, 2007; Schuck & Rabe-Hemp, 2005). Despite this, female officers consciously avoid using force even when it may be warranted. According to Schuck & Rabe-Hemp (2005) females are more likely to engage in “unpredictable policing,” that is, using communication and de-escalation, in situations where one might have predicted the use of force. Conversely, male officers were more likely to practice “overpredicted policing,” in which force was used pre-emptively (Schuck & Rabe-Hemp, 2005). Force is not necessary for gaining compliance as women effectively achieve this while relying on de-escalation and conflict resolution.   

WOMEN as Victims

According to the World Health Organization (2021), women worldwide experience greater proportions of violence compared to men. The World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 3 women have been subjected to sexual and/or physical abuse. Globally, 29% of women reported having suffered intimate partner violence, and this number increases when applying an intersectional lens and accounting for the culture, race, and ethnicity of the female. Police services need to have fair and adequate representation of the communities they serve. 

Knowledge is Power!

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