print Print    Share Share  
Weekly Email Weekly News Email   RSS Feed News RSS  

Feminist News


Gender Differences 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

Media Resources: