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Chief in Nebraska City Emphasizes Hiring Women Officers

Karen Wrigley, 35, is one of many female officers hired over the past year and a half in Bellevue, Ne., a suburb south of Omaha, part of a strategy by Police Chief Ken Clary to reduce the likelihood of misconduct and excess violence on the force. Clary, a former Iowa state trooper, believes research and his own experience that tell him diversity makes for better policing and decreases the use of force against civilians, especially those who are Black, reports the Washington Post. He has rewritten the department’s rule book and promoted an officer to become head of recruiting, with an eye toward adding more women and police officers of color and making sure they stay. It's too early to see significant changes in data generated by the 103-officer department. Officers say the personnel efforts have helped usher in a culture shift, which experts say is the key to long-lasting change.

This winter, seeking to understand the hiring climate in a post-George Floyd world, Nebraska Fraternal Order of Police President Jim Maguire asked the state’s 225 law enforcement entities whether recruiting was up or down. Each chief except Clary who responded said the number of applicants had shrunk dramatically. Clary told Maguire he had more applicants in his city of 53,000 than ever before, with officers transferring from departments as far as New Mexico. Many new arrivals were women. They include Wrigley, who was inspired to become a cop as a teen after watching the 2000 film “Miss Congeniality," Brandy Valdez, a former ballet dancer and maid who left a “patriarchal marriage” and has a talent for calming and reassuring victims of sexual assault;, Chatelle Ogea, a former social worker and current Army reservist, and Pam Volk, who resolved a dispute between a woman and her substance-abusing granddaughter by recounting her own experience living with an alcoholic. Bellevue, Nebraska's third-largest city, is experiencing “the complete opposite of what everybody else is dealing with,” Maguire said. “I don’t know exactly how Chief Clary is doing it. But whatever magic wand he’s been able to use ... I would suspect that a bunch of other departments are going to try.”


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