Friday, April 4, 2008

LAPD SWAT team reconsiders testing policies

The Los Angeles Police Department has had an all-male Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team since 1971, and the SWAT team has just recently relaxed some of its physical standards for admission in an attempt to include more women in the ranks.

Some wives of current SWAT members were upset to hear this news, fearing that allowing women who had passed altered tests to enter the team would be a danger to their husbands.

“The old admissions tests over-emphasized ‘physical prowess and tactical acumen,’ the report said, and under-emphasized ‘negotiating skills, patience, empathy, and flexibility,’” the article said, emphasizing the first set of traits as being “masculine” and the latter set as “feminine.”

“Daryl Gates, the former Los Angeles police chief, told ABC News that the new criteria are unnecessary and will hurt any women who are accepted onto the team. ‘I know women who have the strength and ability to do the job, so I don't think there are any barriers at all,’ he said.

‘How many people are going to say well she never would have been there if they hadn't changed all the requirements? That puts a hat on her that she doesn't deserve.’

Other law enforcement officials, though, say there's more to being a SWAT officer than brute upper body strength. Though some military special forces units do not allow women, other elite law enforcement agencies and fire departments do.

‘It's not just about strength,’ said Margaret Moore, the former assistant special agent in charge at the Department of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms special response team, which carries out search warrants in violent parts of Washington, D.C.

‘It's also about intelligence and determination, motivation, analytical skills, judgment and being physically fit...You're not lowering your standards, you're enhancing your standards by incorporating a diverse group of people,’ she said."

I understand that there are physical differences between the sexes, but some women could pass the old SWAT tests and some men could fail them. The problem I see is that SWAT is an elite, prestigious team that women are excluded from because of the traits common among their sex. They are therefore stuck with non-SWAT jobs which are not as elite and have a tendency to be devalued, or at least undervalued. This happens a lot with jobs that are typically done by women.

Why do so many elite positions in American society depend on (at least perceived) brute strength and shows of force, traits that are typically male? Why are these positions valued more highly than the ones that women fill most often?

Thoughts?

6 comments:

Tyler said...

There are some jobs that DO require the masculine characteristics. Somo of these jobs are very demanding and should be well-compensated and prestigious, and if women are a minority in the field, it is not an insult. There are also some fields women are naturally better at, such as nursing, and elementary school teachers. At least the latter job (not sure about how much the first makes) should be compensated much, much better across the board...man or woman.

Amelia said...

How do you mean, Tyler, that some jobs that require "masculine" characteristics "are very demanding and should be well-compensated and prestigious?" I am confused about your idea about demanding, and I happen to find that to be a very subjective term. There are many jobs that could be considered demanding. Being a school teacher, for example, could be considered very demanding, yet it still is not considered very prestigious, and that is why, perhaps, teachers don't get paid very much.

Tyler said...

BACK UP THE TRUCK! I just stated that school teachers should be better paid. I think it is a very prestigious job, but a poorly compensated job.

The very truth of the matter is that some jobs, for example the SWAT teams,or the military, or a firefighter require traditionally male attributes such as "brute strength." I consider these jobs to be deserving of prestige. I also consider teachers, doctors, and nurses to be very important.

Amelia said...

Mmmk. It keeps sounding like you are saying that you automatically equate jobs that require "masculine" attributes with prestige, although I don't think that's true. Just how it sounded.

Jezabel said...

There are some jobs that women are physically incapable of doing. Women and men are built differenetly, it's a fact of nature. Very few women will ever attain "brute strength" and men will never naturally concieve and give birth. There are many prestigious jobs that both men and women qualify for, but being on the SWAT team and other important jobs that require massive amounts of physical strength just happen to be ones that men are made better for. The SWAT team should not have to lower their phyiscal standards in order to make it seem like they are not sexist. If a woman can make it in based on the standards set forth in the first place, that's great - more power to her. But by relaxing the standards, it could have dangerous effect in the long run.

judgesnineteen said...

I feel like you guys are missing the point. Here's what I see in this story: 1)Does the current SWAT team test test for the best characteristics for a SWAT team member? I don't think any of us are qualified to answer. 2)What is keeping the women who are qualified (which the article says do exist) to pass the current SWAT team test from trying? Is it the idea that SWAT teams are for men? Is there a sexist atmosphere? Do all the women who would be interested in and qualified for such a job just happen to be otherwise engaged? 3)Why are traditionally male jobs generally paid better than traditionally female jobs? (That's an easy one.)