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Analysis of Policing: 'We Need More Women in This Profession.'

Only about 12% of police officers are women, according to an analysis by the National Policing Institute.

Nearly 50 years ago, the Institute (then called the Police Foundation) released a nearly 100-page manual to guide agencies on how to recruit and train women. At the time, there were only roughly 1,000 women police officers in the U.S. That’s grown to an estimated 96,000.

Yet, if police departments reflected population, half of officers would be women. The analysis touts what some departments are doing to attract women. But despite police shortages, common across the nation, most departments are not having great success recruiting women.

There are clear pluses to having more women on the job, the analysis found, summarizing the research. “More women in police agencies tend to result in better public safety outcomes.”

Specifically, researchers have found that women officers receive fewer complaints, draw their firearms less, and are less likely to use excessive force. They are perceived by their communities to be more honest and compassionate. And crime victims, especially sex-crimes victims, frequently see better outcomes when female officers work their cases.

“The bottom line: We don’t just “want” more women, we need more women in this profession,” the Initiative’s analysis concludes.

A new project, the 30×30 Initiative claims that “under-representation of women in policing undermines public safety.” The initiative aims to see police-academy classes rise to 30% women by 2030.

Yet, research by the 30x30 Initiative found that there are clear hurdles on the way to these goals. Black women and other women of color, in particular, face compounding experiences of bias and discrimination in law enforcement because of their race or ethnicity, in addition to their gender. Transgender and gender non-conforming officers face discrimination. Mothers or caregivers may require modified schedules for caretaking duties. Pregnant officers may require certain physical accommodations.

To date, hundreds of departments have now signed onto the 30x30 initiative, which was launched by a coalition of police officers, researchers, and professional organizations. To help with those efforts, NPI stepped in to lead the 30×30 Technical Assistance Center and is developing tools and resources to help agencies reach those goals.



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