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Debra

Debra Robertson

Year of Award: 2017 Award State: Victoria Community > Gender Equality
Emergency Services > Police
To develop a workplace policing model which builds flexibility, fairness and equity - Ireland, UK, Austria, Iceland, Norway
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The #Metoo movement has started. While it is arguably well overdue, the stark reality of gender imbalances, sexual harassment and predatory and bullying behaviour are finally out in the open on a mass, public scale. As well as being talked about more openly, moves to remedy and prevent these incidents and beliefs are also being developed, hopefully ushering in sweeping change for all disadvantaged groups as they go.

Einstein said that every action has an opposite and equal reaction. And these winds of change are no different. The threats to ‘stability’, ‘order’ and ‘the way we’ve always done things around here’ have scared a lot of people – from all gender identities. For many, the best form of attack is defence, defence of the status quo, defence of ‘my rights’ and defence of the comfort many take in being embedded in a system they have always known – despite the negative impacts of this system on others around them.

To combat this backlash, everyone must be on board. We must all know the negative impacts this tattered, soiled security blanket has on all of us – even for those it appears to benefit.

Policing is a natural arena for everything antithetical to the #Metoo movement. We have traditionally hired people for their brute strength and/or gruff manner. But in the 21st Century, is this still (or was it ever?) the optimal skills or attributes for today’s police officer?

This Report outlines current, global thinking on the skills and gender balance needed for today’s police and makes recommendations about same. It is clear that policing today is – and should be – more about compliance and diplomacy than strength, force and power, but we still talk this language and pay homage to physicality, dominance and fear. We whisper the value of a skill set that is also seen as ‘soft’. It is not at all coincidental that these soft skills are more usually found in the female demographic than the male, and their value is thus accorded lesser status.

It is clear it has become necessary to remind all employees of their obligations to ‘do the right thing’. We must eliminate ‘bystanders’, the idea that any police officer can be a mere spectator or onlooker. We must make people who witness the wrong thing identify strongly as ‘witnesses’ and empower them to take action and see it through.

Values. Their existence and attainment – or failure to attain – are intrinsically linked to the success or failure of initiatives to diversify a workforce and improve relationships and reputations. Values are not something that you can just tap in and tap out of, yet we do, time and time again.

How do we address backlash and truly understand what is needed to drive gender equality? This question has been asked and answered in many different ways, in many different countries with many different versions of success and failure. I do not have all the answers, and neither do they. What this paper does do is share different tool kits that different organisations have used to create change and provide a similar tool kit for the bespoke Victoria Police experience.

Diversity for Victoria Police must mean that difference is expected, respected and encouraged so every employee can be productive, innovative and achieve their full potential.

Keywords: Policing reforms, Anti-Discrimination Tribunal, gender, equality, values, diversity, bullying

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