Gender Gap in Police Brutality Lawsuits


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Gender Gap in Police Brutality Lawsuits : Men Cost More

Gender Balance in Law Enforcement Urged

With police abuse cases grabbing headlines nationwide, a new study released  by the Feminist Majority Foundation and the National Center for Women &  Policing documents huge gender differences in the cost of police brutality  and misconduct as a result of civil liability lawsuits. The study shows male  officers in the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) are involved in  excessive force and misconduct lawsuits at rates substantially higher than  their female counterparts.

"The gender gap in police brutality lawsuits is striking. The City of Los  Angeles paid out $63.4 million between 1990-1999 in lawsuits involving male  officers for use of excessive force, sexual assault, and domestic violence.  By contrast, $2.8 million was paid out on female officers for excessive force  lawsuits - and not one female officer was named as a defendant in a sexual  assault or domestic violence case," said Katherine Spillar, national  coordinator of the Feminist Majority Foundation.

"Male officer payouts in cases of brutality and misconduct exceeded female  officer payouts by a ratio of 23:1," continued Spillar. "Moreover, male  officers disproportionately accounted for the lawsuit payouts involving  killings and assault and battery." Male officer payouts for killings exceeded  female officer payouts by a ratio of 43:1 and for assault and battery male  officer payouts exceeded female officer payouts by a ratio of 32:1. Over the  same period, male officers serving in a patrol capacity outnumbered women  LAPD officers by a much lower ratio of 4:1.

"We know that women do the job of policing equally as well as men, responding  to similar calls and encountering similar dangers," said Penny Harrington,  director of the National Center for Women & Policing and former chief of  police of Portland, Oregon. "But more importantly for public officials in Los  Angeles - and across the country - this new study shows that increasing women  on the force holds the key for substantially decreasing police violence and  its cost to taxpayers," continued Harrington.

"Additionally, our research revealed other types of costly male police  officer violence," said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority  Foundation. "Our study uncovered $10.4 million in payouts in lawsuits  involving male officers for sexual assault, sexual molestation, and domestic  violence," continued Smeal.

Noting that domestic violence calls are the single largest category of calls  made to police departments, Smeal observed, "The real cost when male officers  commit domestic violence and sexual assault is even greater than the $10.4  million paid out - both in financial and human terms. Failure by police to  properly respond to crimes of violence against women has high consequences  for women in the community."

The new study confirms earlier research both in the United States and  internationally that shows women police officers rely less on physical force  and more on verbal skills in handling altercations than male police officers.  As a result, women police officers are less likely to become involved in  problems with excessive force and are better at defusing potentially violent  confrontations with citizens.

The report comes as the Los Angeles City Council is debating a series of  reform measures put forward by the US Department of Justice in the wake of  the unfolding LAPD Rampart Division police misconduct and brutality scandal.  In response to the scandal, the Feminist Majority Foundation and the National  Center for Women & Policing have called on the Department of Justice and Los  Angeles city officials to incorporate gender balance hiring requirements in  the negotiated consent decree.

"Hiring equal numbers of women in the LAPD would go further toward reducing  police brutality and misconduct than anything else the Department could do,"  said Spillar. "More than nine years ago, the Christopher Commission report  recommended hiring more women to reduce police brutality, and the Los Angeles  City Council directed the LAPD to gender balance its academy classes,"  continued Spillar. "Unfortunately, the LAPD has dragged its heels,  squandering an opportunity to hire significantly more women during the recent  period of expansion. The consequences have now come home to roost."

Nationwide, women are severely underrepresented on police departments -  averaging only 14.3% of police officers across the country. "The numbers of  women in law enforcement are kept artificially low by widespread  discriminatory hiring and selection practices," explained Harrington. "Not  only is this unfair to women who are seeking law enforcement careers, but our  study shows that depriving women jobs in policing is costly to taxpayers and  results in more police brutality."

Editors' Note: Interviews can be scheduled with Eleanor Smeal, Katherine  Spillar, and Chief Penny Harrington. A full copy of the new report "Gender  Differences in the Cost of Police Brutality & Misconduct: A Content Analysis  of LAPD Civil Liability Cases 1990-1999" is available on the web at:,


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