Women Officers Better at De-Escalation, Chief Says

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As young street cops in Minneapolis, Janeé Harteau and her partner, Holly Keegel, were called out to investigate a man brandishing a gun. They recognized him and braced for the worst, but he surrendered without a fight. The reason, he told them, was simple: They had treated him with dignity, even when they handcuffed him and took him to jail, the chief recalled. “If you look statistically, at not just uses of force but accusations of excessive force, they are very seldom at the hands of female officers,” Harteau said. “Women do tend to use verbal skills, communication — that’s the fundamental core of de-escalation.” The Minneapolis Police Department is rethinking its use-of-force policies, while stepping up its efforts to recruit female officers, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Officers are being trained in alternative ways to control violent or uncooperative suspects before resorting to physical means.

Harteau, who rose through the ranks to become the city’s first-ever female chief, is part of an exclusive club: women leading big-city police departments. As with her counterparts in Oakland, Ca., and Seattle, Harteau’s appointment four years ago was hailed as a milestone, challenging long-held assumptions about what law enforcement should look like. While the department has grown by about 60 sworn officers since 2006, it has the same number of female cops as it did a decade ago: 127. The department hope to change that with recruitment efforts geared toward women. A YouTube video launched this month titled “Women of the MPD” features the multifaceted lives of the women on the force. “It was and still is a male-dominated profession, but some of the attitudes are starting to change,” said Catherine Johnson, one of two female precinct inspectors.

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