Juvenile Minds at Arundel Police HQ

April 01, 1993

Won't those guys in the Anne Arundel County Police Department ever learn?

Not even a year has passed since Police Chief Robert Russell sent his employees to school for a how-to course on treating women. Yet several of them still haven't figured out that while lewd comments, leers and sexual high-jinks might work in a "Police Academy" movie, they don't belong in a real-life police department.

The latest antics on the force involve a civilian polygraph operator accused of making explicit comments to a female job applicant about her body -- and not her fingers and toes. Though he had the foresight to turn off the tape recorder used in interviews, he was stupid enough to ask her to a Fells Point bar -- not exactly the place you go to discuss business -- to review the results of her test.

If you think this is juvenile, consider the case of the Northern District police sergeant now awaiting a hearing on sexual harassment charges. He is accused of cutting out a picture of a female officer's head and pasting it on a picture of a naked body.

Really. You'd expect that grown men in responsible law-enforcement positions would have progressed beyond this sort of demeaning nonsense.

Obviously, a lot of men -- women, too -- believe dirty talk and hormonally induced horseplay are funny. That's their privilege. They are entirely free to get together after work to tell raunchy jokes and glue each other's heads on Penthouse models, if that's what gives them a laugh.

But they should not get away with talking and acting this way to others. It's not just that such behavior is offensive and embarrassing to most women (and men). It's also that any workplace that winks at explicit remarks and insults almost inevitably becomes a breeding ground for more dangerous forms of harassment. This has already happened at the police department. Chief Russell had plenty of reasons for mandating that sexual harassment course for his force: Last year, one captain was fined and another forced to retire after being implicated in offenses ranging from rape to indecent exposure.

Since then, the chief has taken a harder line on harassment, as the firing of the polygraph operator demonstrates. Though more training surely wouldn't hurt his department, Chief Russell may find that he does better by getting rid of the males in his police department who can't learn to behave in a civilized manner. He doesn't need them; they only make the rest of the force look bad.

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