A growing number of police agencies across the country — including three in Vermont — are pledging to bring more women into their ranks.
"You want a diverse force," said Cpl. Carolynne Erwin of the Burlington Police Department, adding that she believes police departments everywhere could benefit from recruiting more women. "I think we can deescalate situations."
Erwin is proud her longtime employer signed onto the 30x30 Initiative, pledging, by the year 2030, to have 30% of police recruit classes be made up of women.
The push is the work of a coalition including the Policing Project at the NYU School of Law and the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives.
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The coalition says on its website that right now, nationally, only 12% of officers and 3% of police leaders are women.
"What we're trying to do is better reflect the communities that we serve," said Capt. Julie Scribner of the Vermont State Police, which said it was the nation's first state police agency to join the 30x30 Initiative.
Scribner heads fair and impartial policing efforts for VSP, and told NECN and NBC10 Boston she wants to see increased recruitment of all groups historically underrepresented in policing, including women, people of color and LGBT people.
"I won't say that it's easy to get hired by a department," Scribner said. "I won't say that it's easy to get through the academy. But what I will say is it is easy to love this job."
Late Friday afternoon, the South Burlington Police Department announced it would also join the movement — writing on Twitter, “We are committed to this critical work!”
Founders of the initiative point to research showing women officers tend to use less force, are less likely to get their departments sued, and often achieve more positive outcomes for victims — especially in cases involving sexual violence.
Cary Brown, the executive director of the Vermont Commission on Women, said in an interview Friday that she is glad the 30x30 effort emphasizes workplace culture and measures to ensure women in law enforcement can thrive professionally.
"It's not just how many women you have working on your force," Brown said. "But are they being promoted at the same rate as men? Do they have the same opportunities for advancement?"
Brown added that police organizations need to have clear policies in place, such as rules around preventing and responding to gender-based harassment, in order to ensure equity.
Erwin said every woman she knows in policing is on the job for the same reason: a personal drive to help community members.
"You found that missing child and return them to their mom, or when a woman had her prized possession of her wedding ring stolen and you've actually found it and the tears it brings," Erwin said, describing two theoretical highlights of police work. "You actually know you made that difference that day — it kind of keeps you going."
Scribner said her recruiting efforts will include relatable social media posts that show elements of troopers' lives the public may not see too often.
Other New England agencies signing onto the 30x30 Initiative include the police departments in Manchester, New Hampshire, and Milford, Connecticut.