DENVER — Women make up half of our country's population, but when it comes to law enforcement, representation is nowhere close.
According to the 30X30 Initiative, women make up 12% of sworn officers, and when it comes to leadership positions, they account for 3%. Research shows women officers use less excessive force, are named in fewer complaints, and are seen as more compassionate by communities they serve.
The goal of the 30X30 Initiative is to increase the number of women in police recruit classes to 30% by 2030.
Both the Denver and Boulder Police Departments have taken the pledge for the 30X30 Initiative.
At the Denver Police Department, one of their recruit classes will graduate in June. Around a third of the class are women.
“There's that stereotype that sometimes woman can be a little too soft," said one of the recruits, Yisel Justo-Santiago. “You'll be able to realize what you're capable of.”
Another recruit, Kelly Goodwin, is excited and ready to join the force.
“When you look around and you see sergeants and lieutenants and deputy chiefs and division chiefs who look like you, and you know, are females, it just gives you hope that this department really values what we bring to the table, and that this is a place where we can be successful, regardless of our sex," said Goodwin.
While the Denver Police Department has not had a female chief, Deputy Chief Barb Archer is the third woman to hold her position. She's been with the department for more than three decades.
“One of my favorite stories from a policewoman, who has long since retired, she told me when she was looking to come on police department, she called and the male officer answered the phone and she said, 'are you hiring women?' He says, 'we have two. That's enough.' That made her mad. And so she got fired up, and she joined the police department," recalled Deputy Chief Archer.
“When women started working in Denver, they didn't work the street, they worked in our juvenile section or handling juvenile arrests, or not in patrol assignments. And once they did go to patrol, they wore skirts for a while. You've probably seen those pictures. I mean, how realistic is it to be arresting somebody in a skirt? In heels? I don't think so,” said Archer.
Deputy Chief Archer said around 15% of the department are women currently.
“I'm grateful for the women who came before me who broke some of these barriers in a male dominated profession," she said. “You can do this. We all carry self doubt. But once you get out there and we teach you well, we have exceptional training. If you rely on that training, pursue opportunities for self development, you will be successful.”
In Boulder, Sgt. Kristi Peterson has been with the police department for more than a dozen years. She always wanted to work in law enforcement with the Boulder Police Department.
“Overall, we've had to really prove that we belong in this job. And that we're really good at it. We're awesome at it," said Sgt. Peterson. “We've come a long way with the persona of what cops are. That it's not necessarily a softer side, but a more realistic side of it.”
Almost a quarter of officers in Boulder are female.
Detective Andrea Tuck started her career in law enforcement three years ago. Seeing other women in leadership positions within policing is inspiring, and she knows the career is meant for her.
“I feel at home here, which is a really good feeling," said Detective Tuck. “I already think we're well on track. We have a lot of women at this department.”