ST PAUL, Minn. — The St. Paul Police Department is pledging to recruit more female officers and to ensure the agency’s policies and culture intentionally support women in law enforcement.
Police Chief Todd Axtell on Friday signed the “30x30 Pledge,” making St. Paul the first law enforcement agency in Minnesota to join the nationwide movement to recruit more women into the field. The goal is for women to make up 30% of police recruit classes by 2030.
In St. Paul, roughly 15% of sworn police officers are currently women, and around 20% hold leadership positions. That’s higher than the national average, according to the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Women make up more than half of the U.S. population but fewer than 13% of law enforcement officers,” the National Institute of Justice asserted in a 2019 report. Beyond that, less than 3% hold leadership positions.
The institute hosted nearly 100 sworn and civilian law enforcement officers, researchers, advocates and foundation leaders to share their viewpoints on the issues that women face in policing. Some of the barriers shared by female officers included adverse or hostile environments, such as the “boys club” mentality, as well as “explicit or subtle harassment, sexism, skewed physical fitness assessments, double standards and lack of support or opportunity,” the institute reported.
The “30x30 Pledge” is based on social science research findings that a “greater representation of women on police forces leads to better policing outcomes for communities,” a St. Paul police spokesperson said in a statement Friday.
Specifically, the research suggests that women use less force and less excessive force, and are perceived in communities as being more honest and compassionate, according to the 30x30 initiative.
Axtell noted that research shows women have high levels of interpersonal communication skills, and can bring a calming effect to high-stress and dangerous situations.
“Studies demonstrate that communities and police departments benefit from having more female police officers,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are barriers that prevent women from pursuing careers in law enforcement. We’re looking forward to incorporating the 30x30 activities into our current recruitment efforts, breaking through those barriers and doubling (at least) the number of women serving the city of Saint Paul as officers.”
Other large police departments that have signed the pledge include New York City, Baltimore, Nashville and Denver.