OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Bellevue Police Department was one of the first law enforcement agencies to join the 30x30 Initiative, pledging to increase its recruiting class numbers to 30% women by 2030.
The initiative, launched on March 25, was started in connection with the New York University School of Law’s Policing Project.
The 30x30 Initiative is a nationwide coalition of police researchers and leaders, whose mission is to increase female representation in policing. The initiative cites research showing women officers use less excessive force, are named in fewer complaints and lawsuits, and explains how community members perceive women officers as being more honest and compassionate, especially in sexual assault cases.
Diversifying Bellevue’s Police Department is a goal of Chief Ken Clary. He was hired in September 2020. He told 3 News Now in October one of his top priorities was to recruit more women to his agency.
“Women in the community make up over 50% of the population yet they're only 12-13% of law enforcement,” Clary told 3 News Now.
Bellevue’s numbers are even lower. Clary says out of 87 sworn officers, 6% of Bellevue’s officers are women, which equates to four women. That figure is below the national average that shows women account for 12% of sworn officers and only 3% of police leadership.
"Women are actually very well suited for policing today. This stigma of going from bar fight to bar fight - it's not real,” said Clary. "Versus the ability for somebody to go into a domestic violent situation and talk their way through, getting the stories, relating to people — the compassion. The compassion is huge. The ability to communicate is huge. Those are the characteristics we're looking for."
Clary says women are clearly underrepresented in law enforcement. He believes the low application rate is partly because the recruitment message hasn’t been catered to women.
“Women were underrepresented, I truly believe because women weren't applying. We were actually hiring at the same rate that they were applying. So the drive is really to get them to apply to get them to see that they can succeed in law enforcement,” said Clary. “In the past, I think people like myself — middle-aged white males, commanders, were crafting the message that we would send out trying to recruit people of color, or females to come to the organization. I don't know how to speak to a 23-year-old female as far as what she wants within a career. I don't know how to craft that message, how to make it attractive."
Clary is eager to provide a pathway for women to move forward in his department. That includes not only recruiting, but also changing the culture, and reviewing policies, like its light duty policy, to better craft them to cater to all demographics.
“We were capped at the number of days or weeks, or months of light duty that you could have, and it actually impacted females in the fact that if they had a problem pregnancy, then they would run out of time to where they wouldn’t be able to run the risk of having another problem pregnancy within a two-year period because they may have a problem pregnancy and they needed to be on light duty. So we loosened that up so that it afforded women the opportunity to have a family and be in this organization,” added Clary.
Clary wants more women in police leadership to reflect the community his department serves.
If you look at the department’s YouTube page, they’ve recently posted several recruitment videos that show women with Bellevue Police Department and how they manage day-to-day responsibilities. It also includes their 30x30 video pledge — making it one of the four videos made nationwide. The department has received national attention for it.
“We also did a Facebook live event a few weeks ago that was targeted specifically in answering women and minorities questions about what it is to become a police officer, and how they can be successful in this atmosphere. We had several hundred people log into that and within the first few weeks we had over 4,000 views. That lent itself to recruiting. A lot of people reached out to us and one of our sergeants did about three dozen walk-throughs within a few weeks after that, invited those people asking questions to come in and visit, actually feel the department and see it,” said Clary.
Clary hopes to have met and succeeded in the goal of increasing the number of female police officers at Bellevue in the future.
According to the 30x30 website, other agencies in Nebraska have also taken the pledge, including Kearney, Lincoln, and Sarpy County. The Iowa Department of Public Safety also signed on to the initiative.
Maya Saenz has more in the above video.