LITTLE ROCK, Ark – Female police officers make a big impact in their communities, and local law enforcement agencies are hoping to increase the number of women on the force.
“We carry our weight just like the men,” Sgt Quatiesha Otey with the Jacksonville Police Department said.
The women of the Jacksonville Police Department are reshaping the police force.
“I’ve been in a male-dominated field most of my life,” Capt. Kimberly Lett noted.
That is changing, though. The national average for most agencies is having female officers make up around 12% of the squad. At the Jacksonville Police Department, they are at 25%.
“Law enforcement is not just for men,” Lt. Cassie Blackerby said. “Women are needed in this profession, and we can excel.”
Blackerby has been with the Jacksonville Police Department for 16 years. She wanted to become a police officer to protect her son.
“If I could control what his environment was, the crime rate and everything like that, then that was something I could help my son grow up in a better world, a better area,” she said.
Over the years, she’s seen the impact women can make.
“I’ve had men literally size me up and I’m thinking, ‘Oh boy, here goes my fight,’” Blackerby said. “But actually, being able to talk to them and reason with them, sometimes men can’t do that.”
Compassion and understanding is a big advantage women bring to the table, department commanders explain.
“They have that natural instinct to care for people, they’re more caring,” Chief Brett Hibbs said.
And although they’re tough, Hibbs said female officers tend to use less force.
“Females seem to be better at that, they can de-escalate a situation a lot of times faster than a male officer,” he explained.
They’re especially helpful in domestic violence situations. Detective Sierra Lee believes that seeing a female come in during those tense situations can put women at ease.
“She’s expecting two men to come in, but then she sees a woman’s face and sometimes it does provide relief for her,” Lee said.
Otey, a recruiter for the Jacksonville Police Department, said the benefits are both department-wide and very personal.
“We have less excessive force complaints, we’re named in less lawsuits,” she said. “Women, we are more compassionate, and we take our time to get to the problem and get to the root of what you’re dealing with.”
Otey, along with many others in the department, hopes to see more women behind the badge. The department has announced a 30 by 30 Imitative, under which department leadership hopes to have 30% of the police force be female by 2030.
“Times are changing,” Hibbs said. “They didn’t think females could do this job, but we see that they can.”
These women are changing the game. They are protecting, serving and breaking the glass ceiling.
“It is rewarding when you can actually make a difference in someone’s life,” Lett said.