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(RCMP) Female Members: “Prove”!

Jan 24

G’day all!! (I’m really beating that greeting to death aren’t I? I think I do it so “Bobbo” is in the right mood for his move “down under”. What’s that you say? Plans have changed? No time for that now. Later.) I’ve been distracted by a media piece referring to S/Sgt.(ret’d) Caroline O’Farrell’s case gaining new traction. If I have it correctly, she has made a civil claim based upon the scale of discipline applied back in 1987(?) to her complaint of Sexual Harassment while a “rookie” on the Musical Ride.

The Commissioner of the day Mr. Inkster, expressed his “…..being appalled and furious” and how “….swift and appropriate action was taken.” That being, informal discipline such as counselling and warnings (ouch, appropriate?) administered to the guilty parties; many of whom are still around today.

It is my understanding that Staff O’Farrell was subjected to a common Ride hazing ritual upon her “making the team”; the same one that I have been advised male “rookies” are subjected to. This included being doused with water and dragged by her arms and legs through stall shavings mixed with horse urine and manure; and as noted previously, this ritual is applied to all “rookies” both male and female.

It is also my understanding that while she was sleeping on the “Ride-Bus” a film was taken of one of her male “Ride-Mates” wagging his finger out of his fly, next to her head; emulating his penis. Further, it is my understanding that this behaviour is not commonly applied to all “rookies” both male and female; and whether or not it is applied to females or males, in my opinion could very easily be considered sexual harassment.

Women have been in policing since the turn of the 20th C. You would think by now that the profession would have come to some resolve around females “on the job”? The National Centre for Women in Policing (NCWP) state that they conduct and disseminate “original research” on the status of women in policing; and the impact of gender on police operations. I know the NCWP by reputation; and it is a good one. However, when I went to their site listing recent publications, I found only 12 of them. Only 4 of the 12 claimed to be original research (implying a degree of empiricism). Upon closer examination, only one of these was somewhat empirical; a correlational study. The remainder appeared to be “survey” articles. None of them appeared to be ground breaking or even very enlightening. Consequently, I turned to the Military (American) who have been at this issue of gender differences for some time and have produced some informative data. (My bias going in, is that women in military and para-military (police) work are mistreated because many of their male counter parts believe they don’t belong; their thinking is the women don’t have the physicality or mentality; that these professions are “man’s work”).

My belief here (and I’m sure some of you would agree) is that women in policing can only improve the profession. In my mind it’s an equation; 1/2 + 1/2 = 1 whole. Put the two human sexes together and you have a whole response to the “call”. Riddle me this? If there was a female member in the front line with Cst. Forcillo (sp?), do you think the Sammy Yatim “call” may have ended differently?

When the military began to struggle with the place of females in combat, the major fear was “would females undermine the whole ‘band of brothers’ cohesiveness element”? Camaraderie between fighting men has long been a critical factor in the success of the small fighting unit. (Ever heard of the ‘Sacred Band of Thebes’ in the ancient Greek Army? Check ’em out! Talk about camaraderie! Speaking of man-love; are you aware of the prevalence of homosexuality in the Roman Legions? Ooooops!!)

One side of the “women in combat” debate is best represented by the UK. This side says that integrating females in combat units does not fit with the practicality of “closing with and killing the enemy”. The other side of the coin is represented by the Scandinavian countries and Israel.

In Scandinavia the belief is that “in mixed units what is of most importance is to become a soldier, it is whether you are a good soldier, or not, that is most prized….male or female doesn’t matter!” In the Israeli case the differences between male and female are accepted and dealt with. It is expected that everyone will have limits when they enter military service, male or female. This is best demonstrated by the “Caracal”; two Infantry Units that are part of the 512th Sagi Brigade of the Southern Command. In total these Units are 70% female. They patrol the Egyptian Israeli Border and their Unit history is replete with tales of heroism and sacrifice made by its’ female members. The Caracal is a cat whose sexes appear the same.

In those countries where females are accepted in combat roles (Canada is one of them) the belief is that women make the fighting unit more effective by providing another perspective on the problem. The philosophy of these “co-ed” militaries seems to be:

* a well thought out policy
* effective leadership
* rigorous training
* natural attributes (discovered by a thorough selection process)
* a realistic culture based integration program

Let’s take a brief look at the scientific literature to see if all this male “flapping about” is merited. Are women really inferior in ways that make them unsuitable for military (or para-military) work? The picture seems to be a mixed one; it is as, of today, incomplete but very interesting.

Please remember that we are looking at the wisdom of including and respecting the place of women in policing through the military example. We might consider due to the military objective that the standard for acceptance, and performance, is higher than in the police example? Let’s take a look at the issue of women being the “weaker sex” and not to be counted upon in the “heat of battle”. A body of work compiled by Castro (a psychologist with US Department of Veterans Affairs) found that although those females who suffered more sexual harassment/trauma prior to or during their service were somewhat more susceptible to suffer post-incident (i.e. incidents of battle) emotional upset than those who did not; they did not show a greater susceptibility to more serious posttraumatic issues. Dr. Castro emphasized that just because they began their service at a disadvantage this did not sensitize them to more acute responses after being in battle.

Castro followed 2 groups of females deployed to Iraq. He compared them with males who were similarly employed and had similar combat exposure. In comparison to their male cohorts, the females did not show elevated levels of posttraumatic stress during deployment or up to 3 months post-deployment. Castro concluded that even though females began their service with more “psychological residue”, the severity gradient was worse for the males. Dr. Castro asserted that the military should not be concerned with “why”; rather, it should acknowledge the resilience of females in a combat environment.

Another body of work (Kimberling, 2008) composed of extensive longitudinal data on the physical and mental health of females in the military looked at post deployment adjustment beginning as far back as service in the Persian Gulf (1992). Comprehensive results published in 2004 showed females with high work/family conflict reporting more anxiety and depressive symptoms during deployment. It seems that those who struggled at home also struggled at work. This is tough as many, if not most, females deployed to the theatre of war do so with little social support; the latter being the major source of self-esteem and confidence.

Another aspect of Kimberling’s work examined females’ records for sexual harassment/trauma. She found that both females and males who screened positive for military sexual trauma were 1.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health condition than those veterans who experienced no such trauma.

The same results were found in the Millenium Cohort Study (2008) where both sexes were 2X more likely to report serious post-deployment symptomology than those not assaulted. The link between serious post-combat emotional responses and previous sexual trauma maybe an important finding since sexual harassment and assault continue to be significant problems in the military for both sexes.

In light of these results I would suggest that sexual harassment and sexual trauma need to be viewed as significant problems whether in the military or the police environment. In the US example 1 in 5 females who seek assistance from the VA report experiencing military sexual harassment/assault/trauma (it is likely not much different in the police world). And these women were 8X more likely to be diagnosed with what was referred to as “PTSD” in comparison with females who did not report these experiences. Males who experienced military sexual trauma were 3X more likely to experience post-deployment “PTSD”, than those who did not.

Well there it is. What do you think? So what is the greater problem, the way women are treated on the job by their own, or the traumatic stimuli they are exposed to during a shift? It kind of sounds like the “bone-head” flashing his “pinky-penis” at Staff O’Farrell might be the biggest contributor to what it is he’s afraid of. Don’t ya’ think? Anyway, I won’t wade in, I prefer to let you do the talking. Have at it! Oh yeah, a little something for all the females in the military and para-military worlds:


Dr. Mike Webster
Reg’d Psychologist

  1. Aught Buck permalink

    Great article Doc, thanks!

  2. EFAMIA permalink

    “Riddle me this? If there was a female member in the front line with Cst. Forcillo (sp?), do you think the Sammy Yatim “call” may have ended differently?”

    Cst. Forcillo’s partner on the front line that night was Cst. Iris Fleckeisen (Female) 24 year veteran of the TPS. Cst. Fleckeisen testified on behalf of Cst Forcillo at his trial.


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