The 30 × 30 initiative: Seeking to improve public safety and transform departments by advancing women in policing

Jazz Guy/Wikimedia Commons: New York City women officers on patrol
March 18, 2024

Given women only make up  12% of sworn officers and 3% of police leaders in the United States, and given these numbers have remained stagnant for decades, New York-based grassroots coalition 30 x 30 conducted research using data from the United States Department of Justice to identify factors likely driving the under-representation of women across ranks. The 30 × 30 Initiative is a grassroots coalition of police leaders, researchers, police professional organizations, and policymakers who have come together to advance women in policing. Over 600 women officers from participating agencies were surveyed and focus groups with hundreds of women officers across the country were conducted.

Findings were as follows:

  1. Recruitment content sometimes paints an inaccurate, hyper-masculinized picture of what the job entails.
  2. Recruitment campaigns often target specific applicant pools at the exclusion of others that show promise.
  3. Some hiring and promotional assessments are biased and unvalidated.
  4. Equipment is often built for a man's specifications.
  5. Pregnancy and nursing policies are substandard or non-existent.

Based on these findings, the 30 × 30 Initiative – housed at the Policing Project at the New York University School of Law – has identified three key goals and five key pledges.

The goals of 30 × 30 are:

  1. Improve the representation of women in police recruit classes to 30% by the year 2030.
  2. Revise police policies, practices, and assessments to remove inherent and unintended bias and ensure the unique needs of women officers are met.
  3. Transform policing agency culture so that under- represented groups do not just survive, but thrive.

The pledges are as follows:

  1. Recruitment
    • Articulate the duties and day-to-day activities of an officer in your department, and what skills and abilities are necessary to be effective in these scenarios.
    • Ensure your recruitment materials reflect these duties and skills.
    • Ensure recruitment content reflects diverse officers and does not centre the experiences of over-represented groups.
    • Engage local experts and community leaders about how best to reach and communicate with under-represented populations in your jurisdiction.
    • Target non-traditional applicant pools with skills aligned with fair and effective policing such as interpersonal communication, empathy, and community service.
  2. Assessment
    • Articulate the knowledge, skills, abilities, and experiences required to be an effective police officer in your jurisdiction. Compare these with the content of your assessments. Are your assessments measuring and prioritizing these items? If not, revise accordingly.
    • Ensure assessments (including physical fitness assessments, written assessments, and psychological assessments) have undergone content validation or an analogous process to make certain they are accurately assessing the skills and abilities necessary to be an effective officer.
    • Review your application process and identify possible bar- riers to completion, such as an arbitrary administrative fee. Remove barriers not directly tied to measuring applicant ability to serve as a sworn officer.
  3. Retention
    • Conduct exit interviews with officers voluntarily separating from the department (including through retirement). Analyse responses for insights and trends, especially across genders.
    • Ensure all equipment for women officers is appropriate and fit to the officer’s proportions (e.g. uniforms, firearms, ballistic-resistant vests).
    • Ensure there is a private, sanitary, designated space for nursing mothers who have returned to work after giving birth pump breast milk. And allow nursing mothers, especially those on patrol, flexibility in their schedules to accommodate their pumping needs.
  4. Promotion
    • Review your promotion processes and identify areas that require subjective rather than objective assessments. Seek to minimize subjectivity as much as possible.
    • Ensure individuals sitting on promotional panels receive bias training (or analogous training) at least annually.
    • Require all promotional opportunities be posted internally.
  5. Culture
    • Affirm zero tolerance for discriminatory practices or harassment, particularly with regard to demographics such as gender and gender identity, race and ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
    • Track completion rates for sexual harassment and other related training, and take action necessary to achieve 100% completion rates. If you do not have such training, implement it as soon as possible.
    • Conduct focus groups with a representative sample of officers to learn their concerns, priorities, and perspectives on department culture, parity, and opportunity within the department.

Agencies sign onto these pledges and commit to reporting on their progress towards implementing these actions in six-month increments, as well as reporting agency demographic data. In exchange, agencies receive regular newsletters with resources and resource summaries, webinars featuring prominent scholars and police leaders and sharing local innovations, and policy briefs exploring critical issues like establishing part-time options for parents and caregivers. Examples of agencies that have already signed onto the pledge include the FBI, ATF, CBP, and US Marshals Service; major metropolitan departments like NYPD and LAPD; mid- sized, small, and rural departments; state agencies; and university departments.

To read the full journal article, see here

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