Police reform has become a hot-button topic in the United States. There are several reasons why, but one thing is clear, the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others are driving the emergent need for all police agencies to review their policies and procedures. Politically speaking, citizens are demanding that police be held accountable for their actions.
Women in Law Enforcement and the 30×30 Initiative
One of the major issues that have plagued law enforcement officers is the need to recruit and retain women. A career in policing has historically been viewed as a male role and this culture is predominant in all levels and ranks.
Currently, nationwide, women account for 12% of the sworn law enforcement workforce with only 3% in leadership roles. It has been reported that these numbers have been stagnant for decades.
There are exceptions to these numbers. It is interesting to note that in the New York Police Department (NYPD), 18% of sworn officers are women, but 68% of the civilian force is women.
Certainly not where they need to be for an impact in the New York City community but better than most.
The 30×30 initiative was founded by The Policing Project at the New York University School of Law and the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE) in part as a result of a National Institute of Justice (NIJ) research summit.
The summit was held on December 3-4,2018 and was led by industry experts from all over the United States and the world. There were approximately 100 sworn and civilian women law enforcement officers in attendance.
The goal of the summit was to understand the current state of research relevant to women in American policing and to generate a research agenda of questions that women leaders in the field have identified as priorities in moving the profession forward toward parity
A report was published by the NIJ in July 2019 that summarized the attendee’s concerns and recommendations that were supported by their well-voiced experiences. The 30×30 Initiative was born out of the 2-day summit.
The Initiative is a coalition of police leaders, researchers, and professional organizations who have joined together to advance the representation and experiences of women in policing agencies across the United States.
The target of the 30×30 Initiative is to increase the representation of women in police recruit classes to 30% by 2030 and ensure police policies and culture intentionally support the success of qualified women officers throughout their careers.
The 30×30 Initiative has formalized this project so that the expectations and goals are clear from the beginning. Police leaders, researchers, and industry experts have stressed the importance of:
- Understanding the current state of a department with regards to gender equity.
- Understanding factors that may be driving disparities; and
- Developing and implementing strategies and solutions to advance women in policing.
How long have women been police officers?
Women working in the police profession began in their earliest form around 1845 and records show that women were working as police officers even back then. However, the first sworn officer was Lola Baldwin in 1908 in Portland, Oregon.
It wasn’t until the 1970’s that women were no longer called ‘matrons’ or ‘policewomen’. Before this time period, their position was to care for women prisoners only.
There have been many phases of growth by women in law enforcement but the current 12% has been stagnant since 2007.
The 30×30 Initiative will assist in the first major growth for women police officers in many years.
Why do we need more women law enforcement officers?
Simply stated, women present and handle situations differently than men. This is not meant to be disparaging towards men.
Fixing a Flawed System
Men will be important partners in the movement toward gender parity in policing. “We need research on how to empower men to support women in their department,” said one of the NIJ summit attendees. Attendees unanimously agreed on the importance of including men in solutions but stressed the importance of engaging men without putting them on the defensive. They suggested that this can be done by placing an emphasis on fixing a flawed system rather than fixing the people within that system
Want to Reform The Police? Hire More Women.
CNN analyzed data from four of the few metropolitan police departments that publish data about the gender of the officers involved in the use of force incidents. In all four cities — Cincinnati, Indianapolis, New Orleans, and Orlando — female officers were involved in a smaller percentage of incidents than their share of the department.
But more than a dozen experienced cops, law enforcement professionals and researchers told CNN that women in police departments face obstacles, from fitness tests that emphasize brawn over people skills, to pervasive harassment from some male colleagues.
Research also indicates that when male officers are paired with female officers, they use less force, and women paired with each other are the least likely to use extreme force. While 30% of male officers have fired their weapon while on duty, only 11% of female officers have, a 2017 Pew Research Center survey found.
The importance of Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a concept that can be used in all types of work. In this case, police officers use it many times daily.
It is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions effectively and positively. A high EQ helps individuals to communicate better, reduce their anxiety and stress, defuse conflicts, improve relationships, empathize with others, and effectively overcome life’s challenges.
Adding more women to police ranks would help add “emotional intelligence” to U.S. policing and reduce the cost of lawsuits filed for excessive use of force, argues Maureen McGough, chief of staff at the New York University School of Law’s Policing Project.
The majority of a police officer’s daily tasks revolve around mitigating conflict and talking with people, which suggests that emotional intelligence is “probably the most important thing for police officers to have,” said McGough, a former senior policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Justice.
“That’s not to say that there aren’t men who are emotionally intelligent, but there’s an over-reliance on physical fitness and an aggressive form of policing.”
To this point, a career in law enforcement was viewed as an extension of the military where the physical fitness of an officer was most important. In today’s reality, officers need the ability to mitigate situations with non-lethal force.
An example of this occurred in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in June 2020 a policeman, facing off against a line of yelling demonstrators, sticks his finger in the face of a protester. He then turns toward a kneeling woman, her hands raised in protest. The officer suddenly lunges and shoves her.
Then, a female officer appears. She swats her male colleague back toward a line of patrol cars, waving her arm and appearing to upbraid him for what he did.
“Thank you!” a protester shouts at Officer Krystle Smith, who won praise for her actions on social media and from police leaders around the country.
Utilizing their ‘emotional intelligence’ as one of their strongest skill sets can take on many forms especially when negotiating with a person in crisis. Through experience, we have learned that departments need to send officers to training programs that will benefit citizens and the community by protecting them and themselves. Specialized training presents officers with alternatives to using physical force.
According to the 30×30 Initiative….
The underrepresentation of women in policing has significant public safety implications. Social science research strongly suggests the advancement of women officers is associated with improved outcomes for both policing agencies and the communities they serve.
In fact, the research is clear that women officers:
- Use less force and less excessive force
- Are named in fewer complaints and lawsuits
- Are perceived by communities as being more honest and compassionate
- See better outcomes for crime victims, especially in sexual assault cases
- Make fewer discretionary arrests, especially of non-white residents
Policing agencies are in desperate need of more women, particularly women who reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.
For relatable purposes, police officers should look like the people in the community that they serve. Basically, people can relate to police officers that they feel most comfortable with and the first impression during a crisis is impactful.
At NYU’s Policing Project, McGough is committed to ensuring that women represent 30 percent of police officers, either on the force or in training academies, by 2030.
The “30-by-30” plan revolves around the concept of representative bureaucracy, which works to reflect the needs of all groups of the workforce, especially those who are underrepresented.
In an interview with The Crime Report, McGough said women need to reach that 30 percent mark to have a say in what needs to change.
According to McGough, the lack of women in policing has resulted in a public safety crisis.
Even though research shows that women in policing faceless complaints regarding the use of force and are better equipped to interact with diverse communities or victims of sexual assault, they only make up between “10 and 13 percent of law enforcement officers,” even less at the executive level, McGough said in a recent Cosmopolitan article.
“Nobody’s figuring out why, and nobody seems to care.”
All of this makes the need for an organized project to improve the percentage of women law enforcement officers to a greater number most necessary.
The NIJ Research Summit was the kick-off to make this happen.
The momentum is building with a 30×30 Pledge
Thus far there are more than 65 police agencies have signed up to be part of the Initiative.
Each of these agencies has taken the 30×30 Initiative Pledge.
The 30×30 Pledge is a series of no- or low-cost actions policing agencies can take to improve the representation and experiences of women in sworn positions of all ranks.
A few examples of police agencies that have taken the pledge are as follows.
- The National Police Foundation
- Massachusetts State Police
- New Orleans Police Department
- North Las Vegas Police Department
- Metro Police Department of Houston, Texas
12 partners are working on the project and a 21-member steering committee that will guide the direction, provide support, and ensure that the 30×30 Inititative will reach its goal.
Agencies who sign the 30×30 Pledge have agreed to:
- Take measures to increase the representation of women in all ranks of law enforcement.
- Ensure that policies and procedures are free of all bias.
- Promote equitable hiring, retention, and promotion of women officers.
- Ensure their culture is inclusive, respectful, and supportive of women in all ranks and roles of law enforcement.
What is Intersectionality?
One of the most important tenets of the Pledge is the need to ensure that Intersectionality is at the forefront of moving their department forward.
The Oxford Dictionary defines intersectionality as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage”.
Police agencies that take the Pledge must address all aspects of intersectionality to improve the representation and experiences of women in law enforcement.
Race and discrimination issues are not experienced in the same manner for everyone.
Women of color experience compounding issues of bias and discrimination based on race, gender, and ethnicity.
It is of critical importance for all police agencies to apply an intersectional lens when analyzing their culture, policies, and procedures to promote a diverse and inclusive workplace for everyone.
The 30×30 Initiative has provided an understanding that this will not occur overnight but rather in a methodical and organized manner.