Mail on Sunday (London)

May 1, 2005

SECTION: FB_04; Pg. 59

LENGTH: 997 words

HEADLINE: Q. How do you help criminals get away? A. Easy, recruit women officers

BODY: Official figures released last week show yet another surge in violent crime across England and Wales. The Conservatives blame Labour, and Labour blames the way the statistics are gathered. But the real reason violent crime is increasing in Britain may be found in the events surrounding a violent crime in Atlanta, Georgia, in March this year, which has caused a furore in America.

Brian Nichols, a 33-year-old, 14-stone defendant in a rape case, overpoweredhis guard, a sheriff's deputy, at a courthouse in Atlanta. He seized a gun from the deputy and went on a shooting rampage that left a judge, a court reporter, another police officer and a federal agent dead.

The sheriff's deputy who lost control of Nichols was a 5ft 2in, 51-year-old woman.

Why was a tiny woman, or any woman, given such a job? Because the Atlanta police force, like many others in America, has been subjected for years to government demands for 'gender and minority' balance; changing hiring rules and lowering standards so more women and people from ethnic minorities can join up. As a result, while overall rates of violent crime have been falling in America, those in cities whose police forces have been compelled to embrace 'diversity' have either fallen less, or have actually gone up.

Dr John R. Lott of the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think-tank, has held academic posts in law and economics at Yale, Stanford and the University of Chicago. He is an expert on crime, and author of a research paper in which he writes: 'A massive experiment has been conducted with law enforcement during the past couple of decades, with more minority and women officers being hired.

'But does increasing the number of minority and women police officers raise effectiveness by drawing on new, untapped abilities, or are standards lowered too far in order to hire large numbers of minorities and women?' The same question may need to be asked in Britain, as the Labour Government pursues its policy of 'diversity' in the police.

According to Dr Lott: 'I find that hiring more black and minority police officers increases crime rates, but this apparently arises because the lower hiring standards involved in recruiting more minority officers reduces the quality of both new minority and new non-minority officers.' In other words, many of these additional black officers would not have been hired without pressure for 'diversity' from the federal government. He says that changes in testing to encourage more minorities to join can explain why these recruits are not of the same quality as those from ethnic minorities who were hired in the past.

Increasing black officers' share of the force by one per cent, according to Dr Lott, increases property crimes by four per cent and the same increase raises the murder rate by 1.9 per cent and overall violent crime by 4.8 per cent. White male officers' arrest rates for murder are significantly higher than those for all other racial groups. Reducing the number of white male officers by a total of 6,912 in 189 cities appears to have increased the number of murders by 1,145, and rapes by more than 100, says Dr Lott.

He found that the effect of changing hiring rules for women was mixed, with no significant overall change in crime rates when more female police officers were hired. Rape rates did decline, but rape rates also declined when increased numbers of Hispanic male officers were added to a force. He also found there were some 'less desirable consequences' of increasing the number of women officers, 'and they fit in with the recent experiences in the Atlanta courthouse attack'.

When asked if a similar policy by the British Government to increase the percentage of police officers from racial minorities and from among women could be the reason for our relentless rise in violent crime, he replied: 'Certainly Britain has had a doubling of gun crime in the past five years, and, overall, violent crime in Britain is about twice the rate of violent crime in America. Only the murder rate is higher in America than in Britain, but even that gap is closing.

'The key question for Britain is, are you changing the standards for hiring police officers, or creating different standards for different groups? If so, then the problems are predictable.' Certainly, the Labour Government has been ordering American-style 'diversity' in the police. The Home Office has set recruitment targets for each police force to 'reflect the cultural diversity of the community it serves'.

And the Home Office wants the proportion of women in the police force to rise to 44 per cent. But anything near that number could leave Britain with a dangerously weaker police force. Dr Lott quotes Michael Julian, former New York Police Department chief of personnel: 'Some officers hired under relaxed testing lack the strength to pull the trigger on a gun. ' One would like to believe such a situation could not develop in Britain. But Julie Spence, Deputy Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Constabulary and president of the British Association of Women in Policing, has complained that gun grips are too large and says: 'Women disproportionally fail fitness tests . .. but why do we need fitness tests? We need to change the image of the service to "brains not brawn".' Dr Lott could tell her that what she dismisses as 'brawn' helps ensure the safety of police officers and civilians. He says: 'Increasing the number of women officers always increases the assaults on police because women tend to be weaker than men.' And the thugs know it.

Dr Lott adds: 'If a male officer makes a mistake and waits too long to shoota suspect who is attacking him, he still has a chance of using his strength to subdue the attacker. Female officers, as was the case in Atlanta, will lose control of the situation at that point. There may be strong moral arguments for "diversity", but crime reduction is not one of them.'

LOAD-DATE: May 2, 2005


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Mother Jones article (description of book, downloadable data sets, and discussions of previous controversies)

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