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Working towards gender equality

To better reflect the university community, the Department of Public Safety at the University of Utah has taken the 30X30 Pledge, determined to increase the number of female police officers to at least 30% by 2030.

“Building trust takes time and must be earned,” said Keith Squires, chief safety officer at the U.  “We also know trust comes more naturally when our officers are truly reflective of the community they serve. To have officers who share a culture, background, views and experiences goes a long way.”

Though women currently make up more than half of the U.S. population, they are vastly underrepresented in policing. Acting Chief Jason Hinojosa attended a presentation on the 30×30 program and proposed the university’s Department of Public Safety incorporate it as a tool for achieving long-term department goals.

Women officers bring unique benefits as noted by the national 30X30 Initiative. “They achieve better outcomes for crime victims—especially in cases of sexual assault—and are perceived as more trustworthy by diverse communities. Studies show overall women officers use force less often and lesser levels of force when they have to.”

Research indicates that diverse workforces are more effective, creative and better at solving problems than homogenous ones. Women in police leadership often bring valuable alternatives to the traditional command presence style of direction. They are skilled in communication, relationship building and connecting people with resources. Women officers are a catalyst for change that results in better public safety outcomes, according to the national initiative.

The U currently has over 10% female sworn officers and 33% women in leadership. Nationally, women make up about 12% of officers and just 3% of leadership.

Working within the flexible framework provided by the 30X30 Initiative, the department will partner with organizations and departments across the country to better support women officers and understand the unique challenges they face as they investigate and build law enforcement careers.

“We are building a culture of listening, to the people we protect, and to each other as a team,” said Squires. “We want to address the barriers women face in choosing police work as a career, and in advancing to leadership positions. We are working toward a change in mindset, toward an environment where demographic diversity of all kinds is not just welcomed but is seen as an advantage.”

Squires continues his “Listening Tour” on campus this fall and welcomes thoughts on improving police force diversity during those meetings.