Northampton PD takes pledge to boost the number of women in its ranks

  • Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Northampton Police Station GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 4/30/2021 8:56:47 AM

NORTHAMPTON — The Police Department is the first in the state to sign on to an initiative designed to recruit more women into policing across the country, a move its chief hopes will help the department better reflect the community it serves.

The pledge, known as the 30x30 Initiative, aims to make women 30% of police recruits in 2030. Northampton joins more than 50 other departments nationwide in signing on to the pledge, which comes from the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives and the New York University School of Law Policing Project.

“I think this initiative will allow us to look at this issue more in depth,” Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper said. “I think police departments should be striving to best reflect the communities that they serve. Increasing the number of women officers would help us achieve that.”

Nationwide, women make up about 12% of police officers, according to U.S. Department of Justice statistics. Of 59 full-time Northampton officers, 10 — or 16.9% — are women, Kasper said. Forty percent of new hires in 2019 (four of 10 people) and 36.6% of new hires in 2020 (four of 11 people) were women, according to Kasper, but the department has not retained them all. Of the 10 officers hired in 2019, only two, both men, remain, and of the 11 hired in 2020, all four women remain, according to Kasper.

Kasper noted that very few women are in higher positions in police forces across the country.

“Women should not only represent their community at the entry-level positions but equally represent in percentages as you move up the rank structure,” she said.

Of all 14 supervisor positions in Northampton, Kasper said, she is currently the only woman.

As part of the pledge, the department is surveying women in the department about their experience. “Are women officers being treated fairly? Do they have equal access to training?” Kasper asked.

Other parts of the pledge include putting demographic data on applications, looking at retention and creating progress reports, Kasper said. The 30x30 website states that female officers use less force and that their underrepresentation “undermines public safety.”

While there is some compelling research on women in policing, “the reality is there isn’t actually consensus that contemporary research shows such a difference between male and female officers,” said Nicole Hendricks, professor and chair of Holyoke Community College’s Department of Criminal Justice. Oftentimes men and women on the force are more similar than different, she said, “often due to the existing male-dominated culture within police departments.”

There is some research showing women on the police force may use less force and have fewer complaints made against them, Hendricks said. A Pew Research Center survey of more than 7,000 officers, for example, found 11% of women said they had fired their gun on duty outside of training exercises, while 30% of male officers said they had fired their guns on duty.

“Hiring more women will not solve these deeply entrenched systemic problems in policing,” Hendricks said. “Having more female officers doesn’t address structural inequities and problems in policing,” she added, “like a lack of transparency, accountability and oversight.”

Kasper shared a different view. “I don’t know of any workplace that wouldn’t benefit from expanding diversity of thought and perspective at the decision-making table,” she wrote in a follow-up email. “Varied perspectives have the potential to positively impact internal culture and to enhance department policy and practice.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.




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