Thursday, March 17, 2005

The X Factor, Larry Summers, and Guards

Back in the early 1990s a question and answer column addressed the question, "Why do women live longer?" The columnist said that women had two full X chromosomes while men only had one X and a stunted Y chromosome. She then speculated that this makes men's cells inferior and causes an earlier death. (More likely, the physical changes that make men bigger and stronger eventually take a physical toll.)

We've come a ways since then. Scientists have mapped the X chromosome and found some interesting results.

It turns out that, in most cases, the second X chromosome is dormant. The exception is when there is damage specific geans from the first one. In that case, the second chromosome provides a good pattern.

This explains why some genetic problems are transmitted by the mother but only strike men.

Genetic mutations and diseases such as color blindness, autism and hemophilia that are linked to the X chromosome tend to affect males because they do not have another X to compensate for the faults.
Now, onto Larry Summers. You will remember that Summers was speculating in public on why there are more men than women in top positions involving math and science. One of the possibilities that he threw out was that more men are genetically disposed to these fields.

It is a legitimate question. It is well known that the bell curve for intellegence for men is broader and flatter than for women (more women have average intelligence while more men are both dumber and smarter than the average).

For this bit of speculation, Summers is likely to lose his job.

But, what if the same process that protects women from genetic problems, also acts on intelligence? It is a subject worth exploring but not at Harvard. You can be fired from Harvard for even suggesting that there can be differences.

While I'm talking about gender differences, I would like to point something out about the Altanta killer. While being transported to trial, a large violent prisoner overpowered his guard who was a five foot tall, 50 year old woman. He took her gun and shot her, then killed the judge and others then stole a car and took a woman hostage.

Many people are calling for an end to women guards. Ann Coulter, for example. This is a knee-jerk answer. This prisoner could have overpowered most men long enough to take their weapon. Someone with more insight into the issue wrote Michelle Malkin.

I have worked in law enforcement for nearly 18 years. I must disagree with your blog article regarding female officers in law enforcement. In the Atlanta case, the problem is not the use of female officers to escort prisoners, but rather a situation where improper procedures were used. Even a large male officer in good physical condition would have been unlikely to handle a prisoner like Nichols in a one on one fight.

It's for this reason that certain procedures need to be followed, including handcuffing protocols, working in pairs, video cameras for monitoring, etc. It appears from initial reports that a number of errors (or poor procedures) were made which contributed more towards Nichols escape than the use of a female deputy.

For example:

1) Nichols was previously caught with a sharpened object known as a shank. Additional security was apparently requested and not provided.

2) Nichols, a known violent offender, was escorted unhandcuffed.

3) Nichols was escorted by one officer when he should have been escorted by two or more officers. The fact that the one officer was significantly physically older and smaller should have been another reason to add a second or third officer to assist with the escort.

4) There does not appear to have been a "duress button" in place in the courtroom, which might have alerted armed officers to the situation earlier.

5) Atlanta courthouse procedures apparently limit the number of officers with firearms in the building. Thus, fewer armed officers were available to respond to any situation whereas if officers were allowed to have firearms, in the courthouse, there's a greater likelihood of sufficient force being present to prevent an escape.

I'm sure there are other errors that will be discovered during the subsequent investigation, but these are the first ones that I immediately noticed.

Over the course of my career, I've known female officers who are smarter and more capable than larger male counterparts. There is much more to law enforcement than simple physical strength or size. Playing to the stereotype that physical size or massive strength is required does a disservice to female officers. The plain fact is that Nichols planning and the element of surprise, along with poor procedures and errors, are to blame for Nichols escape.

In another example, a few years ago, a rapist was terrorizing the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area. Despite being "cornered" several times by male officers, he was able to escape by outrunning officers and commit further rapes. As it turned out, the rapist was a running coach and a very good runner. Was it inappropriate to hire the officers who couldn't run as fast? Of course not. Likewise, because Nichols was a large offender, it doesn't mean that we should get rid of all officers (i.e. women) who are physically smaller than large offenders.

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