SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah Police Department has joined a national initiative to increase representation of women in police forces, the first and only law enforcement agency in Utah to do so.
The 30x30 initiative is a coalition of police leaders, researchers and professional organizations whose mission is to improve representation and circumstances of female police officers across the United States. Their goal is to increase the number of women in police recruiting classes to 30% by 2030.
Women currently make up just 12% of sworn police officers and 3% of police leadership in the U.S., according to the 30x30 organization.
"This 30% threshold is where change begins to happen, but it is not our goal," says the organization's website.
After a Pac-12 conference in Colorado, police chiefs from 10 higher education institutions committed to be part of the initiative.
For the University of Utah, the announcement comes in the wake of former Police Chief Dale Brophy and four officers filing a claim against the university, alleging they were scapegoats after the on-campus murder of student Lauren McCluskey.
McCluskey, a University of Utah student-athlete, was blackmailed and then killed on Oct. 22, 2018, by a man whom she had reported to the university's police department.
One officer involved in the investigation was accused of showing his colleagues the explicit photos of McCluskey that her blackmailer had been using to extort her, according to a review from the Utah Department of Public Safety. After an internal review, the department reported that they found no evidence that the officer had shared the photos for illegitimate purposes.
The 30x30 initiative hopes to improve situations for both women in policing as well as in the public and reform policing by hiring more women. They cite research showing that female officers use less force, are named in fewer complaints and lawsuits, make fewer discretionary arrests, and see better outcomes for crime victims, specifically sexual assault cases.
"Having a diverse agency is essential to us and is an important part of reforming policing," said Jason Hinojosa, acting chief of University of Utah police, in a prepared statement. "We want to promote all kinds of diversity, including gender representation among our staff and leadership to continue building better outcomes and interactions with our community. We will use this program and best practices shared by partners to develop further initiatives that address barriers to women's advancement in our field."
Currently, 10% of the university's department are women, less than the national average, with women making up one third of the command staff, 11 times higher than the national average.
Members of the program pledge to identify and address obstacles women officers face in recruitment and in career development, report their progress and work with the program to assess the data and figure out what needs to be done next to progress.
"Programs like this align with our vision and efforts to reflect the diverse and rich community we serve at the University of Utah," said Keith Squires, interim chief safety officer at the U. "We are committed to working to narrow the gap regarding gender disparities in the law enforcement field."
However, though the program is centered on improving the experiences of women, it is also based in the concept of intersectionality to help address discrimination and disadvantage across race, class and other social categories.
"It's critical that agencies apply an intersectional lens when analyzing their culture and practices to better promote the creation of a diverse and inclusive workforce for everyone," states the organization's website.
The first six months of the program involves collecting baseline data and learning about women officers' concerns, priorities and perspectives on culture, parity and opportunity within the department.
The department also commits to creating a better work environment for women, with designated spaces and flexible work schedules for pumping breast milk, ensuring that equipment is designed to properly fit women officers and reestablishing a zero tolerance policy for gender discrimination or sexual harassment.