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?