Law enforcement agencies from around the country are pledging to increase the number of female police recruits in police academy training classes to 30% by 2030 as part of the 30×30 initiative.
Police leaders behind the initiative say that increasing the number of women police officers can help change the culture of police departments.
According to the initiative’s website, women make up around 12% of police officers in the country and 3% of those in leadership positions.
Maureen McGough is one of the founders of the initiative. Currently, she works as the chief of staff at the Policing Project at the New York University School of Law.
McGough said that she believes that more women in the police force can change the culture and practices of police work.
“It’s not just about getting women in the door, but on transforming police agencies by taking a deep look at policies, procedures and culture,” she said.
Around 200 agencies have made the pledge so far.
The Madison Police Department in Wisconsin was one of the first to make the pledge and has the highest rate of female police officers in the nation.
Out of the department’s 509 sworn officers, 28% are women.
Madison Assistant Police Chief Paige Valenta said that Madison has made a lot of progress since joining the initiative.
“It’s not traditionally been a profession that’s been very welcoming to women. So, I do think there’s a long way to go nationally, but I do think that we have been doing a lot of good things and are way ahead of the curve in Madison.”
Officer Nicole Schmitgen with the MPD said that one of the most important parts of the job is communicating and helping people — something women excel at.
“I’ve had calls where the victim is a survivor of sexual assaults and they prefer speaking to a woman and that’s my purpose. That’s why I’m here,” she said. “And then there’s where I am being catcalled, I’m being called a bitch, I’m being called everything under the sun. It comes in waves.”
Researchers like University of Wisconsin law professor Keith Findley point to studies that show that women have a demonstrably positive impact on the community and the police department.
“They are sued less frequently than male counterparts, they make fewer discretionary arrests, especially of non-white residents,” Findley said. “They use force less frequently and excessive force less frequently than their male counterparts.”
According to Findley, female officers can help departments rebuild trust within their community.