Police departments all over the country are struggling to recruit officers that represent the communities they serve. Often that means recruiting to reflect the racial and ethnic makeup of a community, but there’s also a need for more women in policing.
The Plano Police Department is planning a recruiting event aimed specifically at women, encouraging more female candidates to apply.
"Nationwide, I think the average for females in police departments is 13 percent. Plano is just a little bit higher, we've got 16 percent and we would just love to increase it," said Plano Crime Prevention Officer Hayley Dick.
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The eight year police veteran worked patrol most of her career before transitioning to the Crime Prevention Unit. She spent four years on patrol during the night-shift in Dallas and the last four in Plano.
Officer Dick said her methods of de-escalation work.
"Men show up and you think: brute strength, they're going to muscle their way in. I show up and I want to talk my way in," explained Officer Dick.
At least one study shows female officers use less force and log fewer complaints. The same study points out that is in spite of female officers being subjected to as much force as male officers.
"Statistically, it’s reported that women are less likely to be involved in use of force incidents which is very important," said Plano Police Officer David Tilley.
He adds that any concerns about a female officer's physical strength in a confrontation are mitigated by good training.
"It's your technique and your training that will get you through a violent situation or a fight and come out on top - as opposed to your actual overall size and strength," Officer Tilley explained.
Two years ago, Plano changed its physical fitness test that police candidates must pass.
Officer Dick said there was a bench press requirement and vertical jump that often disqualified women because of their height and size.
The new test is an agility test meant to level the playing field for female candidates competing for a position on the force. Women still have to demonstrate they can drag a 165 pound dummy at least 30 feet, said Officer Dick.
Officer Dick passed the old test and she said she often encourages female applicants to try out.
"Look at me: I am five feet tall, 105 pounds soaking wet. Add my gear and I'm maybe 125 pounds. I can do this job," said Officer Dick.
The department is recruiting for multiple positions including crime scene investigation, detention, records, public safety and dispatch.
Officer Dick said she hopes to continue closing the gender gap in what has been a male-dominated field.
"I remember being there and going to the job fairs and not knowing and being so unsure," said Officer Dick.
"I didn't have a female standing there telling you, you can do it. If I can do it, you can do it."
Plano's Women in Law Enforcement Career Event is Saturday, April 6 from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Plano Police Department at 909 14th Street.
You must register to attend by calling 972-941-2440 or emailing the Crime Prevention Unit office at firstname.lastname@example.org by March 29 at 5:00 p.m.