Several Police agencies across the United States are all pledging to increase their female members of law enforcement to 30%, by the year 2030.Currently, 12% of all sworn officers in the U.S. are female, and just 3% are in leadership roles.
This voluntary, nationwide initiative, which the Michigan State Police is participating in, is not just about diversity among the genders, but diversity across cultural backgrounds as well. It is meant to show a commitment to a recruiting effort that is geared toward increasing the number of female law enforcement officers.
Sargent Katelyn Hammond is with the Michigan State Police, and described the initiative as trying to create an environment that is accommodating to women and to motherhood. She gave an example that many new mothers can relate to, trying to pump their breast milk while on the job. For some, it may mean simply walking away from their desk, and into a private room. But for new moms who are officers on the job, it means trying to figure out how and where, while possibly out in the field. Not to mention the fastest and safest way to be able to do so under the thick uniform layers, and bullet-proof vest.
“We have to find safe locations and private locations. Following a pumping schedule when working shift work, can be difficult, especially when being away from that child for 12 plus hours sometimes,” said Sgt. Hammond.
According to the initiative’s pledge, 30% is the threshold, where change begins to happen, and it is not their end goal. They also hope to establish community partnerships so that agencies become truly representative of the communities they serve. When women are underrepresented, it affects public safety. The organization’s research found that female officers are more likely to use less excessive force, are named in fewer complaints and lawsuits, are typically perceived by communities as being more honest and compassionate, see better outcomes for crime victims, especially in sexual assault cases, and make fewer discretionary arrests.
“There are those societal perceptions in communities of women being more honest and compassionate, but then there’s also that dichotomy of societal perceptions of women not being equipped to work in law enforcement either. So that kind of push-pull can be very challenging to navigate in the field, and I think that only gets better with more women in law enforcement,” added Sgt. Hammond.
The hope is that, within time, this pledge will also lead to female officers in higher positions.
“I think that just by increasing women within the department will in turn, lead to more women in leadership positions. It’s that understanding that we’re building up, we’re getting to that kind of place where we want to see that representation across all ranks of the department. In order to do that, we have to have more women in the department,” said Sgt. Hammond.
Inspector Sarah Krebs is a Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer with the Michigan Department of State Police. Her role is creating an environment for diverse hiring as well as diversity training programs. She agrees with Sgt. Hammond’s sentiment of hoping this initiative will lead to more advancements for women in law enforcement.
“I think that we have to start with something. Right now we are operating at a very low percentage of just women in general, in enforcement positions, … it is so low, and it’s disheartening for someone who has spent an entire career here,” said Inspector Krebs.
She hoped that the diversity among minorities and women in policing would get better, but says that these days, it is much more difficult to get anyone, men and women, especially minorities, to want to be join the police force. She also touched upon how people’s image of policing in America has drastically changed over the last 20 years, after the increasing amount of Black men and women being killed unlawfully by police. Citing, each time they happen, it also hurts recruiting efforts. Inspector Krebs said that she and all ‘good’ police officers are appalled by the killing of Tyre Nichols, at the hands of the Memphis Police Department.
“We don’t want that either in our industry as much as the community doesn’t want policing like that to occur. Good cops are probably more upset than anybody, because that hurts us and we obviously don’t want that to be the perception of policing,” said Inspector Krebs.
Though she did add that she believes policing to be the only industry where one person’s actions, taints the profession as a whole.
“You know if you had medical malpractice, not all doctors are shamed by it, but in policing that seems to be more relevant,” added Inspector Krebs.
The 30x30 initiative is one of the many topics on the agenda for the Women In Law Enforcement Conference. Held every two years, this conference is a way for the female members of law enforcement to create a network with women in all different departments and agencies state wide. Sgt. Hammond says she enjoys attending this conference, since women are typically a low number in law enforcement, she feels she gains a lot from the workshopping and collaborative time.
“We’re trying to bring national voices across the country, both men and women, to represent our thoughts on policing and definitely the 30x30 campaign is going to be highlighted at 2024’s conference, since it is a national push … and why the agencies should invest in their women. It’s how we make, in my opinion, better police officers,” described Inspector Krebs.
Inspector Krebs said she feels being a woman helps her troopers feel as though they can come to her when they need extra help or a person to confide in. An example of this trust was when one of the troopers was looking for help. This trooper did not go to his current commanding officer, rather, he called Inspector Krebs, whom he had not worked for, for over a year.
“They came across a very in-need family. And he called me to ask for help, as in monetary donations, to see what we can do to get this family back on its feet … They know that I am there for them and that I will help. And they didn’t call their boss, they called me,” Inspector Krebs said.
Being a mother of three, Inspector Krebs feels that being a mom is another big part of being woman in policing.
“Not that men in policing aren’t parents too, but you know that sometimes women bear a lot of the load. We joke about it, but it’s true. My kids will ask me for help when my husband is in the same room, it’s like he doesn’t exist. It’s like, I’m busy and they don’t care, they’re coming to mom for everything, and that’s a kind of like my troopers too, they come to me for everything, and it’s fine, we’re multitaskers … we’re able to handle multiple duties at the same time without fail,” said Inspector Krebs.
Inspector Krebs did say that she’s been making it work for almost 23 years, and as a mom for the last 10. But she’s glad she started the career before motherhood, as she knows that some assignments are more parent-friendly than others.
“There were times getting called out in the middle of the night, and kicking doors on a task force, maybe that’s not the position for a brand new mom, and it wasn’t for me. That’s actually why I left that position, which I loved, but you know, there’s certain points in your life where your priorities take precedence over your policing,” Inspector Krebs added.
With this being a new initiative, and with the current statics of women in law enforcement being so low, Sgt. Hammond wants Michiganders to know, “that the women members of the Michigan State Police bring a wealth of diversity and knowledge to our department, and it will continue to be our honor to welcome more female members to our ranks in the future.”