One of the most common concerns I heard from people I spoke with for the story which aired yesterday on MPR about female police officers was the stagnant or shrinking number of women in law enforcement. In April, female officers made up 15 percent of the Minneapolis Police Department. Today, I received the latest tally, which shows that number has decreased to just under 14 percent. In 2013, women made up more than 16 percent of the sworn ranks in the MPD.
According to research from the National Center for Women in Policing, female officers are much less likely than their male colleagues to be sued for use of excessive force. And in the wake of the current discussions about the race of police officers involved in the deaths of unarmed black men, the woman who supervised that 2002 study, Katherine Spillar, says the gender of the officers involved should also be part of the mix.
Yesterday during an award ceremony, Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau chuckled as she told two women who received the department’s civilian lifesaving award that they should apply for jobs in the police department. But she wasn’t really joking. Ever since Harteau was sworn in as chief in 2012, she has publicly called for gender as well as racial diversity on the force. However, Harteau said hiring more women is not necessarily the answer to use of force complaints. “If I had a department filled with women, does that mean there would be no use of force complaints? No,” said Harteau. “Absolutely not.”