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The 30x30 Initiative: The Positive Impacts of Women in Law Enforcement

For decades, women have represented only 12 percent of law enforcement officers. The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), police chiefs, and law enforcement agencies nationwide are working to increase that percentage by supporting the 30X30 Initiative. The 30x30 Initiative aims to increase the representation of women in police recruit classes to 30 percent by 2030 and ensure police policies and culture intentionally support the success of qualified women officers throughout their careers.

The goal is ambitious, given the stagnant growth in the number of women working in law enforcement over the years. However, studies show that increasing the number of women in law enforcement positively impacts public safety and community perception of police.

"A growing body of scientific research highlights the unique value women officers bring to policing. Research shows that women officers use less force and excessive force. One study suggests that when a woman shows up on the scene with a partner who's a man, that partner uses less force and excessive force if responding with a woman," said Maureen McGough, chief of strategic initiatives for the Policing Project at the New York University School of Law.

McGough oversees national efforts to develop standards for police departments and reimagine public safety by minimizing unnecessary reliance on force and enforcement. She also is the cofounder of the 30x30 Initiative. Critics might say the push to increase women's representation may dilute or lower standards for law enforcement; McGough points out that increasing the number of women in most cases doesn't require a change in officer standards. The research suggests that women and other marginalized groups face hurdles unrelated to the job during the application process.

"There's a lot of microbarriers to entry in policing. If you look at the FDNY, for example, they did some research and found that when they removed the $30 application fee, they saw an over 80 percent increase in non-White and women applicants. We suspect that there are all sorts of those types of barriers in the police application process that have nothing to do with whether somebody's going to be good at the job but end up disproportionately washing people out," McGough said.

In addition to helping agencies recruit more women, the 30X30 Initiative helps agencies prepare for an increase in women by examining their policies and procedures.

So far, more than 300 agencies have committed to increasing the number of women in their agency, and several have reached 30 percent already.

"We've seen a real, immediate impact when police leadership gets out in front, communicates to their communities where their prospective recruits are, and says, 'I understand the unique value of women. I know the profession hasn't historically been great at this, but here are the proactive steps I'm taking to change the culture of our agencies so that you have at home here.'"

To learn more about the 30X30 Initiative, listen to the Justice Today podcast.

Date Published: June 12, 2023