Thank you, Karhlton [Moore]. I am so pleased to welcome all of you to the Office of Justice Programs. It is so gratifying to see this incredible turnout, which speaks to the importance and urgency of this issue.
I want to start by thanking Karhlton and his outstanding team in our Bureau of Justice Assistance for organizing today’s convening, and for lifting up and prioritizing women in law enforcement.
I am thrilled to be working again with my former colleague and OJP alum, Maureen McGough – “Mo,” as we in the building call her. Advancing the role of women in policing has been a matter of long-standing concern for Mo, going back to her days in the National Institute of Justice, and I am not at all surprised to see the enormous momentum that she, Ivonne and everyone who is part of the 30x30 Initiative have been able to generate. Mo, it’s great to see you back in the building.
A huge debt of gratitude, as well, to Ivonne Roman, Mo’s co-lead in this enterprise. No one from the practitioner ranks is better qualified to help lead this conversation. Ivonne has served at every level of law enforcement, from line officer to chief, and she is peerless in her insights around gender equity in policing.
I also want to give a shout-out to Dr. Nikki Smith-Kea, who you’ll hear from later this morning. Nikki is one of our leading lights on issues around police accountability and community trust. I had the good fortune of working with her during our days at Arnold Ventures, and I have had the benefit of tapping her tremendous knowledge and expertise on the topic of women in policing. I am grateful for her guidance.
I also want to acknowledge, with great appreciation, the organizations that have thrown their weight behind this initiative – the Policing Project at New York University School of Law, the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives, the Crime and Justice Institute and my friends and former colleagues at Arnold Ventures. They are all heavy hitters whose support has been so critical to this effort.
Finally, my thanks to each and every one of you. You’re here from every corner of our country, bringing a wide range of knowledge and experience, as law enforcement professionals, as policymakers, as researchers, as leaders and – truly – as trailblazers. Though you wouldn’t know it looking around this room, women remain vastly underrepresented among law enforcement officers, and even more so among police executives. Your standing among your peers, and your presence here today, speak volumes about your dedication, your commitment to a necessary calling and, yes, your courage in leading the way for a new generation of women in public safety.
But I know you’re not here for accolades. You’re here to do the hard work that we all know needs to be done to raise the profile and possibilities for women in policing. I think it’s worth asking the question, “why”? Why do we need more women in policing?
A theme you will hear over the course of these two days is that equity and opportunity are essential objectives. They are essential, but they serve an even larger purpose here. By enlisting more women in the ranks of law enforcement, we are making the profession more reflective of the people it serves. We are bringing it back to foundational principles: “The police are the public, and the public are the police.”
When we fail to achieve equity in representation, we lose an opportunity to cultivate the confidence and trust of the people we serve. Effective law enforcement is built on a bedrock of trust, and a growing body of research in procedural justice proves this out: We can improve public safety by strengthening bonds of trust. Emerging research takes us even further, suggesting that women in law enforcement are perceived as especially trustworthy, that they use less excessive force, deliver better outcomes for crime victims and put their discretion and problem-solving tools to good use. Given that women make up such a small share of our current policing workforce, it is imperative that we take this on.
We’ve got a huge opportunity here, as we gather with the goal of putting more women in our nation’s law enforcement agencies and improving their experiences. These next two days are all about how we can accomplish this. Mo McGough and our National Institute of Justice helped jumpstart this conversation three years ago by canvassing the research and outlining the barriers facing women in policing. Karhlton and his team, and everyone who’s part of the 30x30 Initiative, have taken up the mantle and are now moving the conversation to action.
Thanks to their efforts, law enforcement departments across the country are taking up the 30x30 pledge and increasing the number of women in their ranks. Some have already met their goal and are working to improve diversity and inclusion across all intersections of gender, race and ethnicity. We are seeing real progress.
There’s no question that we still have a lot of work to do – no one knows this better than the people in this room – but we are taking the steps we need to take, mining the research, consulting the experiences of women in the profession and charting a course for a future in which women are part of the vital center of law enforcement in America.
I look forward to these two days of discussion, and I am excited about where this conversation will carry us. Thank you all for being here, and thank you all for your contributions to the health and safety of our communities.