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Case Study: Supporting Women Gendarmes to Take on Operational Roles Ark-Siren policing Support team, with funding from the Government of Canada

When Warrant Officer Dareen joined the Jordanian security services, she never imagined that she would end up taking part in tactical operations.

But 15 years later, she now trains her colleagues on the tactical use of firearms, drawing upon her considerable operational experience with the Gendarmerie’s Special Tasks Directorate to enrich her training.

To reach this point, Dareen has benefited from internal Gendarmerie training as well as externally provided courses, such as the Policing Support Team’s (PST) Tactical Firearms and Search course, which she attended in October 2018.

“When I first applied to join the security services, I was looking for employment with good job security,” she recalls. “Soon after I started, I was given the choice of taking either an administrative or an operational position. Despite the disapproval of some of my family members, I was fortunate to have the support of my husband and so I turned down the administrative position in order to work in the field, which I felt would give me more of a chance to shine.”

The importance of integrating women in tactical operations – a key objective of the PST’s support to the Gendarmerie – is not lost on Dareen, who has been deployed on numerous anti-drugs and anti-terrorism raids over her 15 years of service.

“Whenever there is a raid and civilian women are involved as suspects, you must treat them as being as dangerous as their male counterparts,” she cautions. “On many occasions during raids, I have been called upon to search women suspects and have found concealed knives and weapons on their bodies.”

The incorporation of women on search teams is particularly critical given that cultural norms in Jordan proscribe the searching of female suspects by male security officers.

Dareen elaborates, “A dangerous bottleneck can occur if female suspects are found within the premises being searched and there are no women Gendarmes immediately present within the search team. Anything can happen during the time it takes to fetch the women Gendarmes waiting on standby.”

With women occuping just 1.5 percent of the positions in the Gendarmerie, and the majority of those being office-based roles, the operationalisation of women Gendarmes is a challenge.

The training provided by the PST, with funding from the Government of Canada, supports the closer integration of women Gendarmes within search teams by enhancing their ability to use firearms, search individuals, locations and vehicles for concealed weapons during tactical operations. A study visit of 16 female Gendarmes and three senior officers to Ottawa, Canada in November 2018 was an opportunity to view the integration of men and women in operational settings.

“We need more training in shooting,” notes Dareen. “I’d be lying if I said that I’m not scared when I’m deployed on operations. You never know what you are going to find, and suspects’ actions can be very hard to predict. Training like this gives us guidelines for engaging with suspects.”

Course participant, Corporal Shahinaz, who worked as an administrative clerk at a law firm before joining the Gendarmerie added, “When I heard that I had been assigned to attend this course I was very excited, particularly as I had some background in shooting. I learnt a lot of new techniques and positions, and particularly benefited from the building and vehicle search techniques. Conducting inspections is one of my main duties, so I will definitely use these skills when deployed.”

Whilst Dareen already had not-insubstantial operational and training experience, she was able to extract a number of learning points from the methodology adopted by PST trainers.

“I had the opportunity to focus on and reflect upon the training methods used by the trainers,” she notes. “I benefited from the expertise of the PST trainers, and that more than one training methodology was used. I have applied these techniques when training my trainees. For instance, I used the exercise that involves moving between cones and shooting at targets, and I adopted a similar style of communicating with my trainees as the PST trainers. I found that the trainees responded well to this new exercise and method of communication. A Training of Trainers course would be very beneficial.”

For Dareen and the other Tactical Firearms and Search course participants, there was general agreement that the training was much needed. Dareen notes:

“In our culture, men take it upon themselves to protect women and tend to their security. This means that extra effort is required of a woman before she is able to stand alone and convince men of her capability to carry out such tasks. Yes, my [male] commanders have confidence in me, but this is not granted automatically. I have to prove myself in order to gain their confidence. Nonetheless, when you take operational training and take up an operational role, this type of protective fear will fade.”

This reflection was echoed by course participant Private Rawan, who faced significant resistance from her family when she expressed an interest in joining the Gendarmerie.

“When I decided to enter the security sector, my close relatives were against the idea,” she recalls. “They told me that I’d be working on tasks that are more suitable for men; that it’s not acceptable for women to interact with men at work. My father warned me: ‘if you enter the field you may not get married.’”

Undeterred, she went ahead and joined the Gendarmerie and soon found that she had gained the trust and support of her community. She elaborates:

“You could say that I’ve become an agent of change in my area. After I started to prove myself in the Gendarmerie, I showed that working alongside men does not change my ethics. On the contrary, the men I work alongside started to respect me more. Since then, I’ve received a number of phone calls from people in my village asking me to find a vacancy for their daughters or asking for advice on how their daughters could apply to the security sector.”

“I really benefited from the [PST] training in Canada as it introduced me to other schools of thought within the Gendarmerie. Such exchanging of expertise is essential for career growth and for widening my prospects. I learnt new ideas and tactics, for example, how to distribute resources during raids and maximise the safety of the human resources in particular. Also, in Canada, responsibilities are not tied to rank – a low ranking Gendarme can be responsible for a whole team and be the leader.”

Concurring, Dareen added, “I was particularly encouraged when I saw how in Canada female Gendarmes are enrolled in vital roles, regardless of their rank. When I came back to Jordan I applied this to my team by making one of the lower-ranking team members responsible for leading a sub-team.”

As for the warning from Rawan’s father? Rawan got married one year after joining the Gendarmerie and is now a mother to be.

A Follow-Up with Project Participants: Key Insights

The high degree of job security offered by the security agencies, as well as their high level of discipline were the main motivations for joining such agencies. There was unanimous agreement between the women Gendarmes interviewed that these were the primary factors that drew them to apply to join the security sector.

Passion for the job, the love of adventure and the desire to seek new challenges were the main drivers for women to take on operational roles. There was mutual agreement between the surveyed women Gendarmes who had taken on operational roles that they find such roles more exciting than administrative ones. They valued the fact that each operation they participate in feels like a new challenge and that each operation is unique.

Female Gendarmes perceive that their senior commanders provide them with the requested support needed for them to shine in their roles. However, narrowly defined gender roles in Jordanian society hold back women Gendarmes and restrict them to carrying out secondary or supporting roles. They are often placed on standby, to be called when needed, rather than playing more prominent roles. They enjoy their work a lot but they feel that they are hindered by discrimination.

The confidence of male Gendarmes in their female colleagues grows when they work alongside women on operations. However, their confidence in their female colleagues is not a given – the surveyed women Gendarmes reported that many male Gendarmes question the physical capability of women to participate in operational duties.

After participating on the study visit to the Canadian Royal Mounted Police the participants felt inspired and ambitious to achieve more; however, the experience of some participants was bittersweet as it highlighted the disparity in the degree to which the female Gendarmes in Canada take on operational roles and their own situation. The participants were inspired by the way in which rank is not a determining factor in the amount of responsibility placed in Female Gendarmes in Canada.

The surveyed female Gendarmes requested more training for them and their female colleagues and felt that more resources should be allocated to training the female Gendarmes in the yearly internal capacity building plan. However, they clarified that the reason their male colleagues receive more training is that there more men than women in the Gendarmerie.

The surveyed female Gendarmes believe that an allowance should be paid to their female colleagues performing operational duties. The allowance would contribute to expenses such as child care.

Credits:

Text and Photos: Nick Newsom

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