LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — If you've been pulled over or ever had to call the police for an emergency, how many times have you seen a woman respond to the call?
There's a good chance it’s been very few, if at all. There's a reason for that.
Women have been underrepresented in policing for decades. But now, research points to benefits of hiring more women, like less use of force named in fewer complaints, and often getting a better outcome for victims.
Now, local departments are joining a national push to get more women to wear the badge.
"It was tough. It was a tough thing…cried a lot of times," Sgt. Marilyn Thompson of University of Arkansas at Little Rock Police Department explained.
It's a tough job no matter who you are, but in recent years, the underrepresentation of women in policing has drawn national attention.
In the wake of deadly police shootings, troubling patterns have been revealed and countless cries have been made for a different type of policing.
With women making up only 12% of sworn officers and 3% of police leadership in the country, many departments have pledged to join the 30x30 initiative, increasing the number of women recruited to 30% by year 2030.
Assistant Police Chief Crystal Young-Haskins said the Little Rock Police Department has accepted the charge and their team hit the ground running.
She explained, "We hear the public when they criticize us about excessive force. There's research out there that says that women are better de-escalators. They don't resort to force first, they communicate first, and then uses of force become a last resort."
Sgt. Dewana Phillips is over the department's recruiting office. We first met her last July when many of the women of LRPD gathered outside of Central High to film recruiting videos in hopes of attracting women to the force.
Seven months later, Sgt. Phillips said, "This particular cycle we've had an uptick in women joining the police department."
The most recent recruits mark the department's centennial class, made up of 9 men and 11 women. Sgt. Phillips says, "We've never gone into a hiring process to my knowledge with half of the class could potentially be female. That's new!"
The department is hoping it'll make a difference because underrepresentation of women in policing can have its share of consequences.
Sgt. Marilyn Thompson of University of Arkansas at Little Rock Police Department knows this to be true. She's not only lived it, but studied the statistics, too.
In 2017, she wrote a research paper for the Criminal Justice Institute, titled Triple Threat: Black, Female, With a Badge. In it, she explores the history of women in Law Enforcement and the benefits of having Black women on the force, especially when policing in minority communities.
Research from the National Center for Women & Policing (page 20) "...also found that female officers demonstrate more concern, patience and understanding than their male colleagues when responding to calls of domestic violence."
In that same study, they found battered women who made contact with a female officer rated the police response as more favorable and helpful than those without contact.
Sgt. Phillips explained, "You've got to be able to communicate and talk to people. When you communicate and talk to people…not talk at people… because if I'm talking to you and you genuinely feel like the message I'm giving you is true and correct, whether you like it or not, you'll buy into it."
"Women are really good communicators from the research that is out there. And so that helps us when we're out and responding to these police incidents. And they're typically intense situations and trying to talk through that intensity to get information so that if there is an offender that needs to be apprehended, we get that on the front end. And so women are really good at doing that," said Assistant Chief Young-Haskins.
With their target goal of 2030 in mind, departments like LRPD are relentlessly working to see more women in blue. In hopes of not only changing the policing culture, but having a more positive impact on the community they serve.
"Since 2015, police have been under a microscope and the constructive criticisms that we've received from the community, they're not lost on us and we're making reforms. And it doesn't happen overnight, it's incremental," Assistant Chief Young-Haskins added.
LRPD is now accepting applications for class 101, which will begin in August of 2022.
According to Assistant Chief Young-Haskins, the starting pay is $46,525, up to $48,632, depending on qualifications.
The department has also begun accepting applications for certified lateral hires, where someone is already working in law enforcement and certified the starting pay for those officers is between $46,525 to 63,577.
Recruit class 101 would also be eligible for a $10,000 sign on bonus, and up to a $5,000 residency incentive bonus.