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    Tuesday, April 23, 2024

    Serving and protecting while female

    Some jobs need people who feel a strong calling to them: teachers, nurses, social workers, faith leaders, for example. A job that feels like a vocation, not just a career, attracts people who genuinely want to serve.

    The law enforcement field most effectively serves and protects the public when policing is in the hands of individuals with a strong sense of purpose. That urge -- the vocational pull -- implies a readiness as significant as all other standards for police work -- height, weight, physical conditioning, intelligence, education, character, stamina, etc.

    The Day welcomes the robust trend among the region’s police departments to recruit and hire more women with the same job descriptions and advancement opportunities as men. Equal employment opportunity is the law, after all. But a larger pool of applicants with a real calling for the work can also mean better hires and closer departmental alignment with the demographics of the population they swear to protect and serve.

    Diversifying the law enforcement workforce is a positive way to address the issues of ingrained racism and brutality that have driven many to call for “defunding” police. The presence of women officers will also lead to hiring and leadership roles for individuals who would diversify the force by race, gender preferences and other characteristics.

    In other words, not every cop has to look the same.

    Nationally, the employment of women officers has hovered around 12 percent -- the approximate current average among southeastern Connecticut departments -- for two decades. A concerted effort to change that to 30 percent by 2030 is gaining strength. Hundreds of departments have signed a pledge to make that an internal goal.

    Initiators of the 30X30 movement, including a former chief of the Newark, N.J., police department, say that 30% of marginalized people in any group is a tipping point, and could help bring about the improvements in policing culture demanded since the 2020 police brutality killing of George Floyd and related cases.

    "(That's) where they are able to say, 'This isn't right and this is affecting us negatively,' and they don't feel there will be negative consequences associated with it," co-founder Ivonne Roman told NPR.

    Supporters argue that the opposite is true: that a scarcity of female officers portends “dire implications for broader public safety.” They cite studies that show women officers are less likely to use excessive force, receive fewer complaints and lawsuits, are seen as more empathetic and make fewer discretionary arrests, especially of people of color.

    Changing the departmental ratios would go more smoothly, perhaps, if municipal police budgets were funded for the optimal number of officers. Since they often are not, however, female candidates are unlikely to be add-ons to the strength of the force. They will vie for the same limited number of openings as men. It is critical that both the top brass and the unions support the choice of women by making room for them in the organization -- and literally, as well, with comparable access to lockers, leave time, etc.

    The recent article on this subject by Day Staff Writer Greg Smith quoted several local chiefs of police committed to having women serve on their staffs and perhaps rise to leadership roles. Their efforts are among those matters that might seem groundbreaking now but should just be common sense. By 2030, we can hope, nobody will be talking about this subject. It won’t be news.

    Getting our communities to that point, however, will benefit from the example of good police work by the women working in local departments right now. Many of them told The Day that this is the job they were meant to do, a good omen for how they will do it.

    Officer Christina Nocito, a former bank employee, is one of two community resource officers working for the New London Police Department. She was hired in 2021 through a program specifically tailored to finding candidates from within the community. Ledyard Police hired officers Taylor Krajewski and Kyra Teixeira the same year. Each brought strong educational background to their applications, and all have become visible in their communities.

    The military, the medical profession, government and many other professions have developed new strengths with the proliferation of women in traditionally male roles. Law enforcement needs to catch up.

    The Day editorial board meets with political, business and community leaders to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Timothy Dwyer, Executive Editor Izaskun E. Larraneta, Owen Poole, copy editor, and Lisa McGinley, retired deputy managing editor. The board operates independently from The Day newsroom.

    Comment threads are monitored for 48 hours after publication and then closed.