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The Mesa Police Department is making an effort to increase the number of women in law enforcement.

Last week, the department joined the 30X30 Initiative – a pledge that aims to increase the number of women recruits in law enforcement agencies to 30 percent by 2030.

The pledge is a nationwide coalition of police researchers and community leaders whose mission is to identify factors driving gender disparities and implement strategies to hire and advance women in law enforcement positions.

“It’s still hiring the right person for the job,” said Mesa Det. Brandi George. “We’re not solely seeking female officers, we are just letting females know ‘if this is something you’re interested in, then let’s do this’ because I don’t think they realize the need for female officers.”

Nationally, about 12 percent of sworn officers are women with only 3 percent in leadership roles, according to research by 30X30. 

In Mesa, that number is slightly higher with women making up about 14 percent of active-duty officers in the department, despite women making up over 51 percent of the adult population in the city.

It’s a good first step to involving more women in law enforcement, said Debra Esparza, the CEO of TWCA, an organization aimed at empowering women and fighting racism. 

“It would be a terrific concept or idea if our organizations and institutions like law enforcement reflected the makeup of the communities they serve,” Esparza said. “We’re definitely not there yet.”

Since 2014, 50 percent of Mesa PD’s recruitments have been women and people of color, said Mesa Assistant Police Chief Dan Butler. And in recent years the department has pushed to promote women into leadership roles. 

In 1998, Jan Strauss became Mesa’s first female police chief. Today, Tactical Commander Diana Clevenger leads Mesa PD’s SWAT team, one of the few women in the country to hold the position. 

“We have women at all levels of our organization,” Butler said. 

The pledge represents the department’s continued efforts to work with other departments and improve diversity in policing. 

“There’s a lot of women out there that would do incredibly well in law enforcement and they’re not applying,” Butler said. “We want to get them to apply and to start going through our process and bring them on board.”

Entering a male-dominated industry or department, especially a career that many perceive to be a physically demanding role, is intimidating for a lot of women, George said. But policing is more than the physical abilities, “we need female brains,” she said. 

Women police officers receive few complaints and lawsuits, are less likely to use excessive force and have better outcomes communicating with crime victims, especially those involved in sexual assault cases, according to the 30X30 website. 

“Sometimes that female victim wants to speak to another female,” George said. “They don’t want to talk to a male (officer) about what just happened to them with the male suspects.”

“There’s domestic violence calls, where females are victims, males are suspects, and having a female officer on the scene appeases the victim and helps in the investigation,” George said. 

Esparza said the YWCA stands in solidarity with the 30X30 pledge and hopes the department continues to strive toward advancing women in law enforcement and eliminating systemic biases that may exist in many departments today. 

“We would expect, as well, that these agencies work to retain and promote the women throughout their careers with professional development, leadership training, and really disclose and articulate salary ranges so there’s pay equity across the organization,” Esparza said. 

The Tucson Police Department and the emerging Queen Creek Police Department have also joined the pledge, according to the 30X30 website. 

“We see the need for female police officers and we want them to know that we need you — you can do this,” George said.

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