From Better Gear To 'Nursing Pods,' State Police Pledge To Hire — And Retain — More Women
Vermont's state law enforcement agency is promising to hire and retain more women.
Compared to their male counterparts, women who serve as law enforcement officers use less force, are perceived as being more honest and compassionate in their communities, and their interactions result in better outcomes for crime victims. This is according to research behind the 30x30 Initiative, a pledge by more than 35 law enforcement agencies across the country — now including the Vermont State Police — to hire more women and improve the experiences of women in their ranks.
VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb spoke with Capt. Julie Scribner, co-director of fair and impartial policing and community affairs for the Vermont State Police. Their conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Mitch Wertlieb: How does the work that you do as co-director of fair and impartial policing and community affairs figure into these goals of the 30x30 program?
Capt. Julie Scribner: The Vermont State Police is committed to fair and impartial policing, and it isn't just about traffic stops and traffic stop data. I think that really is what most people think of, when they think about fair and impartial policing. What it is, is building relationships of trust with communities of color, other communities, and diversifying our workforce. We need to improve our cultural awareness, and as the state becomes more diverse, we need to become more diverse in our department.
"The 30x30 Initiative has a goal of 30% women in recruit classes by 2030. You know, in order to be truly representative of the communities we serve, we should be about 50%." — VSP Capt. Julie Scribner
What is the current state of women as troopers or in Vermont State Police leadership?
Vermont State Police right now, our current numbers are about 13% women. That's about double of what it is for women in state police agencies across the country. Nationally, it's about 12% women in all agencies. And nationally, 3% of women are in leadership positions. Vermont State Police, from lieutenant on up, it's 15% of the department in a leadership position [who are women].
How do you feel about those numbers?
I think that comparatively, those numbers are great, but we really could do a lot better.
You know, when we talk about 13% of the department is women, and we're so much higher than other state police agencies — it's still nowhere near what we should be. The 30x30 Initiative has a goal of 30% women in recruit classes by 2030. You know, in order to be truly representative of the communities we serve, we should be about 50%. I think we're a ways from that. But the 30x0 is a great initiative to start getting us on track.
One of the things I found curious about the VSP signing on to this pledge is, they say there will be “low and no-cost actions” to increase women in the ranks. What specifically are those “low and no-cost actions” that VSP can take?
"It's really a struggle for getting boots to fit women's feet when, you know, the best boots out there are fit for a man. So it's a little hard to believe sometimes that in 2021, we have challenges still with getting things to fit." — VSP Capt. Julie Scribner
Initially, in the first six months of the pledge, what they're looking for is some baseline data collection regarding rank and certain assignments. Some immediate action items — and again, these are low and no-cost, and some of these we have already had in place — [are] to formally make hiring, retaining and promoting qualified women a strategic priority for the department, [and] affirm zero tolerance for discriminatory practices or harassment.
One of the other things that we're really proud of is, one of the recommendations is ensure there's a designated space for nursing moms who've returned to work after giving birth. Some of our newer barracks have setups that would accommodate that, but a number of our older barracks are not able to accommodate that at all. So we purchased a portable nursing pod that can be brought to different barracks, a private and sanitary space.
And then a couple of the other initiatives within the first six months is to ensure that equipment for female officers is appropriate and fit to our proportions. Most of that we have in place, but it's really a struggle for getting boots to fit women's feet when, you know, the best boots out there are fit for a man. So it's a little hard to believe sometimes that in 2021 we have challenges still with getting things to fit.
As a woman who has experience in law enforcement, I wonder if there are things that you recognize that would keep women from entering this profession, or drive women from the profession? Even if it's anecdotal, [are there] things that you would like to see improve?
I think one of the challenges is, when applicants are looking at websites or social media, if they want to apply for a job in law enforcement ... if they don't see people that look like them, they're going to move on, and look for a department that has people that look like them.
Currently, in the Vermont State Police, the department is 84% white males. And again, we're a lot better than a lot of other agencies, but we have a ways to go.
In conjunction with the launch of the 30x30 initiative, you're going to start seeing a fresh look on social media of your Vermont State Troopers. We're going to be showcasing our members and what they do when they aren't at work. We coach soccer, we're Scout leaders, we ski and snowboard, we barrel race horses. We're moms and dads, and we're even grandmothers and grandfathers. And we want to share that, to show applicants and to show Vermonters, who your Vermont State Police really are, and that we look like all your neighbors.
The Burlington Police Department is also joining this 30x30 pledge. I'm wondering if you're hoping that with BPD, with VSP being on board, that this will spread out across Vermont to other law enforcement agencies?
I absolutely am hopeful that all agencies in Vermont will sign on to this initiative. There really is no reason why an agency wouldn't sign on for this project. I mean, to increase the representation of women in the department, it's a framework for agencies that want to improve the representation of women. And it isn't just women. This framework is going to also help improve diversity across the board.
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