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'The future of law enforcement': Bill introduced in U.S. House to incentivize women in policing


Raleigh Police Chief Estella Patterson speaks during the women in law enforcement event at the Historic Durham County Courthouse on Wednesday, April 12, 2023.

Photo Courtesy of Carly Breland.

On Wednesday, U.S. Reps. Deborah Ross (D-N.C. 2nd) and Rep. Valerie Foushee (D-N.C. 4th) introduced the Supporting Women with Career Opportunities in Policing Services Act at the Historic Durham County Courthouse.

The new program is meant to increase female involvement in law enforcement in the United States. 

If passed, the act will establish a federal task force that will release a report with recommendations on how U.S. police departments can hire and retain women and see them advance to leadership positions, Ross said at the event.

She explained that if states were to implement changes based on that report, they would receive a 5 percent increase per year in federal funding.

In addition to encouraging states to increase female engagement in law enforcement, the act aims to incentivize women to consider careers in policing. Foushee said the act, if enacted, will also help revise biased hiring practices.

N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein and four female police chiefs from the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Zebulon Police Departments joined Ross and Foushee on the courthouse steps during the announcement. 

“The Supporting Women COPS Act is about more than just ensuring that women have a seat at the table,” Ross said. “It's about giving law enforcement officers the resources and the support they need to do their jobs, ensuring our citizens have confidence and faith in their elected officials who are sworn to protect them.”

Women only account for 12 percent of the country’s full-time police officers, Ross said. She said these numbers have remained largely unchanged for over two decades.

Durham Police Chief Patrice Andrews said Durham leads local departments in proportion of female officers — women make up 17 percent of its police department. 

Raleigh Police Chief Estella Patterson said the Raleigh Police Department sits at the national average of 12 percent, and Chapel Hill Police Chief Celisa Lehew said women make up 13 percent of the Chapel Hill Police Department. 

Foushee said statistics show female officers have a positive impact on communities.

“Studies have shown that women in law enforcement use less excessive force, help improve police-community relations, are named in less complaints and produce better crime outcomes, especially in sexual assaults and domestic violence cases,” she said at the event. 

Patterson, Lehew and Andrews said their departments are looking internally to foster diverse, welcoming working environments. If signed into law, Lehew said the Supporting Women COPS Act will reinforce these efforts by establishing clear standards for improvement nationwide. 

Andrews explained that women have struggled to see themselves in law enforcement because of the demands of the job and a perception of female inferiority. 

Patterson said when she first entered law enforcement in 1996, she chose a police agency she knew was actively recruiting women. However, despite its advertisements for opportunities for women, the agency wasn’t the welcoming environment she was expecting.

“Within a year of working so hard to prove my worth, I remember sitting in a roll-call room — a room full of officers — and there were two among us that were women,” she said. “I distinctly remember our supervisor, the leader of the team, making the comment: ‘There is no place for women in policing.’”

Still, Ross said the four female police chiefs in the Triangle are an example for the nation.

“We are mothers. We are sisters. We are daughters. We are someone's loved one. We do it all,” Andrews said. “But most of all, we are the future of law enforcement.”


@DTHCityState | 

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