The Austin Police Department and UT System Police are seeing more women apply and being sworn in as police officers.
Myeshia Francis-Parker, APD senior police officer and recruiter, said 10% of the 1,800 APD officers are female. She said she hopes APD will continue its recent success with female recruitment.
“We hold one or two women’s recruiting events a year,” Francis-Parker said. “We have expanded our recruiting team to seven persons, and more than half are females.”
Eric Cortez, APD senior police officer and recruiter, said 513 female applicants applied to APD this year — an 18.2% increase from last year and a 470% increase since 2014. Cortez said more females have been hired because the physical fitness test standards have recently changed to accommodate each applicant.
“About six years ago, we had a standard where female applicants were required to do the same amount of pushups as the male applicants, and that was a little more biased toward males,” Cortez said. “We adopted this new running test that is based on gender and age, so it is unique to everybody. We’ve seen a huge improvement in hires as a result.”
Mike Heidingsfield, the director of police for the UT System, said in an email that the number of women who are sworn officers in UT System Police has increased from 77 to 89 since 2013. UTPD recruiting Sgt. Tracy Staggs said 10 of the 102 UT Police Department officers are female.
Staggs said promoting gender diversity within UTPD will allow the department to better serve and understand the community, especially UT students.
“With over 50% of the student body at the University being female, it’s important that we represent that gender group to provide services to them,” Staggs said. “We are here to ensure the educational mission of the University is accomplished by providing a safe environment for all students, faculty, staff and visitors on campus.”
Francis-Parker said a high presence of female officers can inspire more women to join. She said it will also bring comfort to women who would prefer speaking to a female officer about situations such as sexual assault or domestic violence.
“If they see more female officers out here doing the job, they will know they can do the job too,” Francis-Parker said. “It’s a male-dominated field, so we need more female officers in the department because women can do the job just as well as males.”