The intense camaraderie and protectiveness that law enforcement officers feel toward one another is a source of professional pride for many in the industry. However, the so-called thin blue line that officers dare not cross by getting one another in trouble can leave some people in vulnerable positions and empower those who behave abusively at work.
Women and other minorities working in law enforcement may find that they are not part of the mainstream culture at their workplace. Even worse, they may find themselves the target of racist or sexist harassment and discrimination or may notice terrible behavior on the part of their co-workers that goes unaddressed and unpunished.
For these individuals, the thin blue line may not protect them but instead leave them excluded if they try to stand up for their rights to a discrimination- and harassment-free workplace.
Law enforcement communities include a large number of abusers
People who work in highly visible and scrutinized careers, particularly as civil servants, tend to be on their best behavior while on the job. However, if you look at their worst behavior in the domestic world, you may have an idea of how they behave in situations of power imbalance at work when emotions run high.
Unfortunately, quite a few officers will admit to engaging in physical abuse against their spouses or children while off the clock. In two self-reported studies of officers, researchers found that roughly 40% of police officers admitted that they were abusive toward family members outside of work.
There may not be a universal overlap between those who are physically inappropriate with their family members and those who abuse co-workers or members of the public in their official capacity as law enforcement. However, there’s no denying that the roughly two out of every five law enforcement officers who engage in abuse skews the entire law enforcement community’s culture when it comes to acceptable force and violence.
You shouldn’t have to fear for your career or your safety when you report someone
Coming forward as the victim of sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace is not easy to do, and it can become infinitely more difficult if you believe your coworker will turn their backs on you once you speak up about the mistreatment you have suffered.
The same thing is true for those who must speak up when they witness other officers engaging in sexist, racist or discriminatory behavior in a professional capacity or using their authority to abuse those they should protect. Officers know that they may wind up shunned by co-workers or even fired for coming forward.
The potential for severe workplace alienation is emotionally damaging in any workplace, but in a dangerous profession such as law enforcement, the lack of support from your peers could be deadly. Still, speaking up protects not just you but also the people in the community you serve.