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Women in Policing

Captain Ivonne Roman

Captain Ivonne Roman, Newark (NJ) Police Department, describes how her participation in NIJ’s LEADS Program has helped her research on women in policing, some of her findings, and describes how LEADS has benefited her career growth.

Within policing, often you’ll have chiefs speak among their peer groups to try to determine what are best practices, what’s being done in another agency, and this is because, often, research is hidden behind a paywall. It’s not accessible to practitioners. Through the NIJ LEADS Program, I was able to access research on women in policing. I was given assistance in a literature review. I was able to see what has been studied and what lacks study. It really helped me inform what was happening with women in policing so I can determine how best I can improve those numbers within my own agency.

What I found was that the number of women in policing hasn’t increased in over 25 years. It’s hovering right around 12%. And I learned that there are many problems that lead to these numbers. There are issues with women being interested in policing because of the way that it’s portrayed. There’s issues with women entering the academies because of the physical fitness standards. So, through that research, I was able to look at what was happening in my agency but then compare it to what was happening in the rest of the country, and what agencies were performing better, and which agencies were underperforming so I can determine how to craft a response for my agency.

I started the Women’s Leadership Academy in Newark because of the number of women that were failing our police academies. What I learned was that women were being eliminated because they were unable to pass the physical fitness test, but the research showed that well-trained women perform as well as their male counterparts. The problem was that they were only giving women about 10 workout sessions to pass the exam. So through my study, I found that the sweet mark is around three months, so I train women between three months and six months to prepare for this exam, so once they walk through the door, they’re prepared to pass that initial test so that no longer is an obstacle. And once we removed that, the number of women that were failing was greatly reduced. Policing historically has been a male-dominated profession, and historically, it has been the grandfather who groomed his grandson to become a police officer, and his father’s on the job, and this provides a network, and those networks offer opportunities. And because women haven’t traditionally been in policing, those networks aren’t available for them. So, through our organization, we offer these mentoring opportunities. We let them know what the career trajectory should look like if they aspire to a higher position. We let them know what training they should try to get into, and what positions would help them to become an executive.

LEADS has been a phenomenal opportunity for me. It’s opened up doors, it’s made me aware of so many more sources of information. In my research on women and policing, I have contacts within the Bureau of Justice Statistics, I have contacts at the Police Foundation, I’m now an Executive Board Member of the American Society of Evidence-Based Policing, but more importantly, I have a network of peers that are interested in research just as I am.

Date Created: March 25, 2020