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PHASE 4 (2020-2021): COVID 19: EXAMINING THE EXPERIENCES OF CANADIAN WOMEN IN LAW ENFORCEMENT DURING THE PANDEMIC
During the COVID-19 pandemic, police officers are facing many of the same dangers and following many of the same practices as frontline healthcare workers in order to protect themselves and their families. For women police, the impacts of COVID-19 are particularly concerning. Not only do women in policing generally experience higher levels of stress than their male colleagues and are more likely to provide frontline care to vulnerable populations than men, but they also perform the bulk of domestic labour and child care at home. COVID-19 threatens to intensify these inequalities as the crisis makes it impossible to divide work and home spaces. A gendered analysis of the impacts of COVID-19 is critical to recognize these stresses and to avoid perpetuating pre-existing inequalities in policing that have traditionally excluded women from high-ranking, leadership positions where policies and decisions are made, including pandemic planning.
Supported by a SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant ($24,879), Drs. Debra Langan and Carrie Sanders collaborated with Ontario Women in Law Enforcement (OWLE), a networking and professional development organization, to examine whether, how, and to what extent COVID-19 has exacerbated the challenges and inequalities experienced by women in law enforcement, at work and home. This SSHRC-funded project’s objectives were to: (1) understand how COVID-19 is impacting the experiences of women in law enforcement, at work and at home; (2) assess how law enforcement agencies have responded to COVID-19, and the impact of these responses on the experiences of women in law enforcement, as well as their retention and promotion; and, (3) provide a report (co-written by OWLE and the research team), that contains concrete recommendations for how organizations can safeguard the professional and personal well-being of women in law enforcement.
Methodologically, the project employed a multi-mode approach. Drs. Langan and Sanders have collected responses from 115 participants via an online survey of women in law enforcement - those on the front lines, in supervisory/management positions, and civilians - from across Canada. The insights gained from the survey results were then used to inform the development of a set of questions that has been used to gather qualitative interview data from 15 officers who wished to elaborate on their survey responses.
The research findings are being shared with OWLE members through a written report, an infographic, and a podcast, to enhance solidarity among women and support their coping strategies. Drs. Langan and Sanders also worked with OWLE to translate findings into action-oriented policy recommendations that are being shared broadly with law enforcement practitioners (e.g., police services in Canada, the International Association of Women Police, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police).
This study was funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Partnership Engage Grant
PHASE 3: THE EXPERIENCES OF WOMEN IN RED AND BLUE: A QUALITATIVE STUDY OF THE ORGANIZATIONAL CONTEXTS OF CANADIAN POLICE SERVICES
In this current phase of the project, we adopt a case-based analysis approach to examining the organizational culture and structure of policing. We are particularly interested in the experiences of women police in relation to the various stages of their work from hiring to promotion. Specifically, we address issues related to recruitment, retention, and promotion for women in policing.
This study was funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Development Grant
PHASE 2: POLICE MOTHERS' EXPERIENCES OF ORGANIZATIONAL, CULTURAL, AND OPERATIONAL CONTEXTS OF POLICING: EXAMINING SMALL, MEDIUM, AND LARGE POLICE SERVICES IN ONTARTIO
In this phase, we further develop the ideas that emerged in the pilot study. Specifically, we focus on the organizational culture and structure of policing. Our interviews with 52 “police mothers”, demonstrate the shortcomings of the culture and structure of policing, shortcomings that inhibit police mothers from achieving their career goals. The police women themselves articulate suggestions for change including: the development of policies and procedures that support family responsibilities, changing the norms and attitudes of the hyper-masculine police culture to value what women have to offer policing, increased mentorship for women, and greater representation of women at all levels.
This study was funded by Wilfrid Laurier University General Research Funds and by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Development Grant
PHASE 1: POLICING AND MOTHERING: THE COMBINED CHALLENGES OF WORK AND HOME
Our initial pilot study drew on the experiences of 16 “police mothers” to demonstrate the unique challenges both at work and in the home. At work, the occupational culture of policing requires women to repeatedly prove their worth, particularly following maternity leave. In doing so, women are required to downplay their emotions and ‘get tough’. At home, women engage in ‘danger-protection parenting’ styles in an effort to shield their children and prevent them from becoming either victims or offenders.