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Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

Lynne Doucette

Lynne Doucette

Lt. Lynne D. Doucette is a patrol supervisor and defensive tactics trainer with the Brunswick (Maine) PD. Prior to being the first female promoted at BPD, she worked as an undercover detective assigned to the state narcotics task force.

Patricia Teinert

Patricia Teinert

Patricia A. Teinert has been a Texas peace officer since 1984. She has served as a patrol officer, investigator, and member of a juvenile gang and narcotics task force. She is currently a patrol officer with Katy ISD Police Department.
Women in Law Enforcement

Is Sexual Harassment Just Bonding in Disguise?

Officer Lori M. Connelly takes an interesting view on reasons for and ramifications of sexual harassment at work.

February 09, 2010  |  by Lori Connelly - Also by this author

Sexual harassment is an employer's nightmare. It is a doorway to lawsuits and paranoia in the work place. In a utopian world it would be a non-issue and for the most part even though police work is still mostly a "man's" world sexual harassment doesn't seem to be a particularly prominent issue when I talk with other female officers. Or is it?

First it is important to identify what sexual harassment is. It is unwanted and unasked for attention of a sexual nature that can come from the opposite or the same sex. It isn't just a man whistling at a woman or making a comment that a woman's place is in the home. It can be silent, like a dirty look or an entire squad refusing to ride "two man" with the only female on a squad just because she is a female.

It can even be something that is presented as a joke like posting a calendar of swimsuit models on a new detective's desk to see if she will laugh. These things aren't so funny though when they cause problems in the work place - even when it just causes tension and doesn't result in a full blown investigation.

A couple of years ago, a female officer consulted me about what to do when she was assigned to a new unit and a calendar of female swimsuit models was posted on her desk. She was the only female assigned there. I knew most of the guys she was going to be working with and I knew they didn't mean anything by the gesture other than to welcome her as one of the "guys." She was really offended, though.

Instead of taking my suggestion that she laugh it off, she took offense and made a complaint. This resulted in a big mess and ultimately her new squad never accepted her as one of them.

Everyone does have a right to be offended by unwanted and unasked for attention, especially of a sexual nature. But I knew there was something deeper there than what was on the surface. It wasn't until I read about a study done many years ago on dock workers in the UK and their employee theft that I began to understand what was really going on.

In the study it was discovered that dock workers were stealing at work not because they needed what they were stealing but because they were establishing bonds of trust between each other. Yes, that is what you read: stealing to establish trust.

If the dock workers saw each other steal a little and they kept each other's secrets they built a bond of trust between each other. If one of them didn't steal at all then the group didn't trust the person. If one of them stole too much the group didn't trust the person. The stealing was never about need; it was only about establishing a level of trust.

In this same way I have known when to laugh at things that could have been considered sexual harassment but I knew weren't. It was just the guys testing me to see if they could trust me. They wanted to know if it was safe to let me in and be one of "them."

It is a fine line and it sounds kind of crazy. I realize sexual harassment and theft are not the same things at all, but there is certainly something about building levels of trust at work that is universal. The kind of trust we need when doing police work is the deep kind you need when the guy who has your back will lay down his life for you and you for him.

Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

bdtcop @ 2/10/2010 6:13 AM

Lori has a very interesting concept here, and which makes sense for the vast majority of "sexual harassment" issues. There are issues which rise to a different plane, especially those where a superior is seeking inappropriate favor. But as she says, most of the issues are really part of the initiation process, a test to see where the new officer sits. In previous days, and even today, male to male it manifests itself in other types of activity - letting the initiate take a call with the local whack, without warning them, to see the outcome, practical jokes, etc., with the newbies reaction being gaged by the veterans to see if there is a fit into the group. Unfortunately, Sgt. Connelly was not available long enough ago to come up with her theory - which may have saved a lot of bad feelings as the Mars and Venus cops each misinterpreted the situation...

Marina @ 9/14/2016 2:36 PM

I agree that in law enforcement, there is a unique trust that exists between fellow officers. This trust saves lives. However, I don't agree with her "laugh it off" solution. This is exactly the kind of sophomoric behavior that is hurting our sisters in blue. The guys may have meant it as a welcoming gesture, but deep down they are telling her that it's a man's world and it's a man's right to act however they please without any consideration for anyone else, especially females. Not cool! I doubt these men would have been so supportive if she had placed a few tampons on their desk and said "welcome to my world!"

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