Webinar presenters Paige Valenta and Anne Li Kringen answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Women in Policing: Performance & Outcomes. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: You mentioned that female officers seemed to be less likely to be involved in deadly use of force. Can you talk about what differences and processes, techniques and approaches you thought might lead to this number?
Anne Li Kringen: Like I said, the research does out there on it. The hard part is all of the research does sort of see outcome measurements, right? So it’s about did they used force or did not use force. So often we don’t even have that process evaluation of why. So, some of the stuff that sort of leads us to think about this is, I don’t want to say speculation, but it is based on the kinds of things that we might see in the few studies. And so, I think a lot of it does have to do with this idea of de-escalation. When I’ve spoken to female officers across the nation on various case studies, a lot of times the first thing they talk about is the need to know that they have to deescalate the situation. If they may not be able to – well they may choose not to use force because they know “Hey, if I’m dealing with a guy that’s 6’7 and much bigger,” that I’m not coming to disable within an even kind of toolbelt, although I might have a more extensive amount of tools based on utilizing force. And so they’re more likely to utilize tactics that might include talking someone down or having a discussion or thinking about tactically how to get someone to sit down because you know, hey they might run on you or they might try and fight with you and that you’re trying to get them in that position of where you’re already in a position is in a disadvantage. So these are some of the things that I heard, sort of, through the interviews with officers. Paige, you have any other thoughts come up?
Paige Valenta: No, I think you made some really points that there is a lot that goes into that ultimate culminating decision and there is a lot of research I think that really addresses some of those very specific points. So I think you did a good job of illustrating that, you know, we need a lot more research in this area.
Audience Question: Mark would like you to discuss the efforts and challenges in starting a female mentoring program for incoming recruits, especially looking for model programs with successful practices and programs.
Anne Li Kringen: I’m actually doing a small evaluation with a major metropolitan police department. They started a female mentoring program with new recruits. It’s a really great idea and one of the things that I actually really enjoy in working with this particular department is they said, “We don’t know if this works”, right? and so, one of the things that is challenging is that you have to work as a department on what is the outcome. Is the outcome, retention, keeping individuals within the academy or is it making sure that they feel kind of supported and understanding the roles and the expectations on what’s going on so that they can continue. But, let’s say, they decide it’s not for them, then they choose not to continue, right? So that’s actually really complex and that goes back to this idea of measurement, which is what do we consider effective or efficient. What one person might define, what an agency might define as effective might be retaining individuals, right? Does anyone quit? And so, we’re kind of doing a comprehensive approach to sort of understand – hey are people dropping out? That’s obviously an important metric, but also what is their experience – do they believe it’s helpful? Are there unintended consequences? Are they breaking the chain of command by discussing certain things with their mentor who might be outside their immediate supervisory roles? And so it’s new and exploratory but it is something that we are doing and I’m really grateful to have the opportunity to work with this agency. It’s really interesting because they also recently out at a different city and the same issue of mentoring came up and where they were like – I don’t know if it’s individual one on one mentoring but maybe it’s more like family group, kind of think this way. And then, not only brought up they’re doing mentoring and so this is a really, I think hot topic, and one, I think we really need to kind of bring all of the research and tools together to see how do we do it effectively and how we do it to make sure that we ‘re meeting kind of the organizational agency goals as well as meeting the needs of the officer as well.
Paige Valenta: Yeah and I just want to point out that really broadens the question too to where does mentorship begin. Does mentorship begin when somebody is formally hired to an agency? I know MPD does have a mentorship program in that regard. But does mentorship begin much earlier than that and in a baseball analogy, let’s say hosting a farm team, Madison Police Department is part of something called Camp Hero which is funded by the Girl’s Scouts or related to the Girl Scouts and it’s an annual summer camp where children of all ages starting Kindergarten going all the way up through Seniors in High school have access in a multi-day and sometimes multi-week program to experience what the job of the first responders are actually like. And I would argue that exposing young women to the careers that first responders and police are involved in that begins a mentorship program that we can then rely upon to hopefully generate interest and bring talented people into our organization. We also have an explorer’s program that helps older kids get more experience about what the police do on a regular basis. And so, I think that there’s a broad opportunity for discussion about when does mentorship for policing actually begin.
Audience Question: Are there specific practices that either of you can share that explain why Madison Police has almost over twice the number of female officers than other departments nationally?
Paige Valenta: I have to say it’s due to hard work and it’s due to a commitment and recognizing that diverse groups make better decisions and recognizing that a diverse police department better serves the community. We’ve had a commitment in this organization for decades for successive chiefs. Currently, Chief Mike Hobel who’s extremely dedicated to making sure that there aren’t barriers to women in this organization. I think it’s a sustained commitment, it’s not a fad, it’s not a program or an initiative that has beginning and an end but a recognition that this is important and this is important for our community, it’s important for our officers and it’s important that we have people that can relate to a variety of experiences and be able to provide that good police service. So I would say that it’s a multi-faceted question but it goes all the way from how the recruitment takes place, where we go, who we recruit and who we reach out to, but also it’s also self- sustaining in many ways as well because when Madison Police officers are out on the street, you’re going to see a lot of ladies out there and that sometimes provokes thoughts that, “I’ve never seen a female officer, maybe I can do this”. Hopefully, a young person is having those thoughts when they see a lady officer drive down the street. It’s opening opportunities and just the mere thought process and presentation in our community helps it make self-sustaining but I would also want to point out that there’s a lot of dedicated recruiters out there and a lot of attention to making sure that there aren’t barriers for women.
Audience Question: With that in mind, do see differences in retention rates between male and female officers?
Paige Valenta: I think that where MPD is looking to improve is to be more cognizant of some of the struggles that especially officers and female officers might face when it comes to maternity. Women have special needs and have different needs when it comes to having a family. So how can we look to make what is often shift work, what it’s often work that comes at odd hours of the day, that’s often prolonged, how can we adjust our schedules in order to make it comfortable for our officers to be able to pursue this career and stay in the career once they’re here? I think that is the real challenge that we are right now investing in a lot of strategies to bring to fruition. But you know, it costs money and there’s a lot of careful thought that has to go into navigating some of these programs.
Anne: I think a lot of these are often discussed in terms of only do we retain female officers? But I think the other part is are officers generally thriving. So I’ve spoken to both male and female officers who say: ‘Hey I’m not promoting because I have family circumstances and I need the daytime hours. And it goes back to placing the right people in the right positions and making sure that, for both male and female officers but it disproportionately sometimes affect female officers, but we think about this type of things so that we have people who promote, to move to different position, to go to different units, because that’s where they best fit, versus people staying and then maybe choosing not to do a different job or different unit because that’s what their family life dictate. I think that sort of across the board a challenge that I know police agencies have to face.
Audience Question: As more body camera footage is available, do you think it may provide an opportunity to implement a process-based approach to measuring performance?
Anne Li Kringen: There’s a whole host kind of setting body camera footage that I would say that is challenging in terms of who has access for what type – I think I’m probably more conservative on how to answer that particular question because a lot of times it’s like what’s redacted, who has access to it etcetera. And so, there’s potential there. I think we’re sort of conservative on this because we tend to sometimes see body camera footage as the solution. If we now watch officers do things, we then now know. And I think we also have to remember that video footage still means there is a kind of bias within the observer. I don’t think we actually got research decided to figure out how to deal with this potential issue so there’s a study that came out that’s discussed by the supreme court dealing with an officer-involved in a pursuit where they pit the vehicle and the individual whose vehicle was pitted became a paraplegic. Anyone who had seen that video would have necessarily came out and said that was dangerous. What’s the driver was doing. They have to had done that type of tactic to stop this dangerous pursuit. I can’t remember who researchers are but they utilized that same video and they showed it to people across the nation and they found out, unfortunately, it was wrong. People looked at that video and actually came out with different views based on their background on whether they thought that was an appropriate use of force. So I think I was sort of hesitant to see body camera footage as a pure objective piece when I think it still serves as may be more evidence that we can do with this type of things but it’s much more complex than I think we are having that discussion within public forum on.
Paige Valenta: I think that you’re right too that it goes to that, the idea of what is proper performance and what are we benchmarking. Is proper performance, I think we fall back to some performance that is easy but do we quantify how many times we’re going to ask a particular question or the tone of voice that we’re going to ask it’s a particular question or the way we phrase the particular question. So while body cameras can be informative in some ways, I think there is a certain level of subjectivity which is also a broader discussion.
Audience Question: What are some of your targeted recruiting techniques?
Paige Valenta: We have a very robust recruiting program and it often entails officers who are graduates of a particular institution. They’ll return to those institutions and have conversations with students at those institution to try and create that personal touch and that ability to relate and say: ‘Hey I know the situation, I’ve been at this particular institution and I think this would be a good fit because it was a good fit for me’. So I think having alumni return to their institutions is often helpful. We do focus a lot because of the physical nature of this job on recruiting athletes. We’re very fortunate in the city of Madison here, again, to have a number of academic institutions, collegiate, academic institutions in the area. Go Badgers! And so, we’re very fortunate that we can go to a lot of division 1 and we do have some division 3 schools in the area as well that we seek out those talented individuals who are not only high performers in the athletic fields but also in the classroom. So that’s a very important combination and it suits well for the multiple demands that this job offers. Again, we’re involved in things like Camp Hero. We have a program for police explorers. So it’s a multi-faceted strategy. Also, our chief is very active in the community. He frequently lectures at the academic institutions, he frequently goes out in the community and frankly he does a fantastic job of identifying individuals and bringing them into our department.
Anne Li Kringen: I think a lot of that is perfect. It is just sometimes it just that human interaction with having someone who can answer your questions and with having a department that has representation and then having a large, or relatively large female representation percentage and then having them on the forefront to doing recruiting and being there and able to answer the questions. What I found is how’s recruiting and hiring changing with the use of technology and social media. And so, one of the things is also kind of the images that you’re portraying and the things that are on your website. Because a lot of people get their information in the beginning by clicking on that website and seeing social media, following your Facebook page or your Twitter account. We’re working with a department right now and it’s really interesting to see the kinds of messaging but also how quickly they have to respond to when they’re asked a question. So recruiters will get questions on Twitter and on Instagram on how to do these types of things and that they’re responding. So I think there isn’t a lot of research in that particular area but I think a lot needs to be focused on this idea of social media and the internet and how are people getting their information and what type of message does that then transmit to a prospective applicant.
Paige Valenta: That’s a great point. I know that MPD tries to be very focused on the guardian philosophy as opposed to the warrior philosophy. We have openly stated that we’re recruiting social workers, so to speak, and that’s because we were seeking those individuals that have strong skill sets in communication, in de-escalation and the ability to relate and problem-solve people. So what your social media is saying and what type of candidate are you attracting in that regard. And also, you brought up a great point in terms of having to be responsive. I think there’s been some adjustments in our application process in an attempt to make that shorter timeline. We don’t want recruits waiting out there waiting 2, 3, 4 months to move to the next stage in our process. Because we know that there’s a competition for skilled people that we’re trying to attract. I think there some attention paid to making certain that there’s communication that goes on during the hiring process and that hiring process has been shortened in a way that makes achieving a position on the department come to fruition a little quicker than it had in the past.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Women in Policing: Performance & Outcomes.