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After one year, is gender equity in policing catching on?

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Posted at 11:00 AM, Mar 31, 2023

HOBOKEN, NJ — One year ago, we took a hard look at the gender breakdown of police forces. We then introduced youto a program designed to create equity.

Ivonne Roman created and ran the 30x30 Initiative. She had been raising her voice for years about research that’s been consistent for decades: female officers are less likely to use force and three times less likely to have fired their service weapon. But women make up just 12% of those who enforce the law.

Roman asked agencies to commit to having a 30% female staff by 2030.

“At the time, we were at about 170 police agencies. Now we’re nearing 270 police agencies. We’ve expanded into Canada,” Roman said about her initiative.

In addition to those commitments, Roman said other actions are being taken now.

“We have police agencies that have set up nursing stations for women. A police agency in San Diego set up a daycare,” Roman said.

The San Diego Police Department is the first in the nation to have a city-approved childcare center for officers’ children. These days, firsts are more frequent. Clay County, near Kansas City, became the first sheriff’s office in Missouri to sign the pledge. Last month, Blackfeet Nation in Montana named Misty Keller its first female police chief.

Departments from Phoenix to Milwaukee are using the pledge in recruitment videos to help honor it.

Perhaps the biggest change from last year to this year is Roman’s own outlook. A year ago, we found her skeptical that the agencies who signed their pledge would commit to it instead of looking to boost their public image at a time of intense scrutiny.

“Whenever they have an all-female squad going out, do a photograph it and put it on. It makes news, right?” Roman said.

But now, the Colleyville Texas Police Department can put out a photo of their all-female shift and add in that 34% of their officer staff are female.

Roman can see tangible success, departments delivering on promises, knowing the change in culture those deliveries might ultimately bring.

“We don't want them just to come in and survive in the culture. We want them to also thrive,” Roman said.