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#FakeNews: Weak Women and the Trigger Pulling Hypothesis

As a rule, I try not to get drawn into stupid political commentary. However, every once in a while, something comes across my electronic desk that simply begs for a response. In this case it was a tweet from Ann Coulter of all people, pontificating on what she took to be the underlying cause of a tragic shooting in Dallas.

The reality is that two seconds with Professor Google would have disabused only the most biased person from agreeing with this view. Why? Because, relatively speaking, use of force is one of the most well-researched areas of policing. Researchers have looked at: suspect characteristics, situational factors, policy and legislative effects and officer characteristics, among others. In relation to officer demographic factors, the influence of gender on use of force is fairly well understood. Let me nutshell it for you: there is no evidence to support Coulter’s assertion that women are more likely to resort to lethal or potentially lethal force. In fact, there’s a range of studies that suggest otherwise. Here’s a few examples:

In a study of a large suburban service drawing on seven years’ of data, researchers looked at both use of force and arrest data and concluded there was “No statistically significant difference between female and male officers was found in the overall rate of force or in the rate of unarmed physical force.” Women were more likely to have a lower rate of weapon use, but the overall effect size was relatively small (Hoffman and Hickey 2005).

Survey data from six police departments shows that female officers used less force then their male colleagues (Schuck and Rabe-Hemp 2008).

Using Queensland Police Service data that included 4974 force-related complaint files and 11,493 allegations, Australian researchers observed that whereas females “made up 26% of employed officers, but only 16% of officers receiving complaints and 15% of officers subject to specific allegations. In addition, females had significantly fewer repeat complaints, fewer single subject officer complaints, and complaints against females reduced more quickly with length of service” (Porter and Prenzler 2017).

More specifically, in relation to police shootings, the evidence is also a fairly clear. A few more examples:

In a study of 186 officer-involved shootings, researchers found that 98% of officers were male. They conclude that “it may not be too surprising that male officers were more likely to engage in a use of deadly force incident than female officers” (McElwain and Kposawa 2008).

In White’s (2006) analysis of 271 lethal force incidents in Philadelphia, approximately 95% of shooters were male.

Even accounting for the fact that females typically make up far fewer numbers of police officers (for example, approximately 21% in Canada), the evidence suggests they are NOT more likely than their male counterparts to use force, including deadly force.

To sum: Ann Coulter is an idiot.

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