I first came across this proposal in a post within the Facebook page of the feminist advocacy group ‘Domestic Violence NSW’. I contributed a comment which they quickly removed (as recounted in another of my blog posts), and which I will now re-iterate and expand upon here.
In the article Women-only police stations an effective way to target domestic violence, law professor says, Professor Kerry Carrington is quoted as saying that:
“Women’s access to justice is the key thing and the key things that most women complain about is not being believed, not being heard, not having appropriate support or response.
“That’s one of the key findings of most research, and of course that puts police in the firing line, but one way of alleviating that is to have specially trained police who work in these police stations.”
(Professor Kerry Carrington is Head of the School of Justice, Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology, and author of Feminism and Global Justice, Routledge, 2015. Her original blog post on this subject can be accessed here)
But Prof. Carrington doesn’t just want specially trained police, she wants specially trained female police. In fact Prof. Carrington’s idea goes even further than that, calling for women-only police stations, a proposal that carries with it more than a whiff of separatism or gender apartheid.
In terms of enhancing the battle against domestic violence, to what extent would Ms. Carrington’s idea contribute above and beyond that which is, or could be, achieved with the existing system of mixed-gender police stations?
It’s probably fair to assume that some women would be more comfortable reporting domestic abuse to female police officers. I certainly understand and support that with respect to (for example) having female officers assist traumatized female rape victims. As a consequence one tangible benefit of women-only police stations could be an increase in the percentage of female victims of domestic violence lodging reports of violence.
But even if that were the case, would these further reported crimes translate into more effective sanctions, and eventually a corresponding reduction in rates of perpetration? I’m not convinced.
And given that the percentage of male victims of domestic violence currently lodging reports is substantially lower than for female victims (7% vs 21%), then perhaps addressing that segment should be accorded a higher priority?
I think we can assume that it is not Ms. Carrington’s intention to press for one male-only police station for every two female-only stations (to reflect the fact that one in three victims of domestic violence are male). Thus the proposal is sexist and discriminatory in that it provides a publicly-funded service for women in the absence of a similar service for men
Another point to consider is that domestic violence is only one of many crimes dealt with by local police stations. Even if women-only police stations were more effective at addressing domestic violence, would it be practical and cost-effective to establish special police stations to tackle one particular crime?
In the broader scheme of things, additional reports of domestic violence might well result in incremental increases in government funding for the domestic violence industry. But one has to ask just how effective has that consortium’s efforts been in reducing the incidence of domestic violence over recent decades? Hardly inspiring, I would suggest.
And what of other potential negative aspects of Ms. Carrington’s suggestion?
- It reinforces the false view that women are more empathetic and/or that male police officers are incapable of displaying empathy (even specially trained ones)
- It reinforces the false view that domestic violence is limited to men’s violence towards women (and ignores the reality of male victims and female perpetrators)
- It reinforces the notion that it is appropriate to have differing systems of justice for men and women, rather than one uniform and consistent justice system for all Australians
- It may be the case that some citizens would be subject to inconvenience, or even additional danger, as a result of finding themselves further removed from a traditional mixed-gender police station. There would be some additional cost associated with the proposal, and thus there would be a corresponding ‘opportunity cost’ in that funds would be unavailable for alternative and perhaps more effective measures aimed at curbing domestic violence
Female police officers much more likely to kill unarmed suspects than male police officers (5 December 2016) Reddit discussion thread with linked article
Freeze! I just had my nails done (16 March 2005) More female police = more civilians shot? Hmm.